Franciscans defend migrants’ rights at Human Rights Council

In Central America, migrants and their defenders – those who provide food, shelter, medical or legal services – are facing an increasingly hostile environment.

This was the message from Misean Cara’s project partner Franciscans International who addressed the Human Rights Council in Geneva this week.

Br Fray Armando González OFM from the Franciscans’ Justice and Peace desk in Guatemala, who works with his community to support migrants, shared some of the many difficulties they experience on the ground and put forward some suggestions to improve the situation.

The Franciscans’ intervention came on 6 July as part of a dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Migrants, in connection with his recent presentation of his latest report which addresses freedom of assembly for migrants and their defenders.

Franciscan human rights advocates meeting the UN Secretary General in New York last year.

Many of the organisations that support the migrant population in Central America – including Franciscans – have been the target of attacks, threats, harassment and stigmatisation by government authorities and non-state actors, said Br Armando González.

“The militarisation of borders creates a context for intimidation, detention and criminalisation of migrants and their defenders, and in general to commit serious violations of human rights,” he told the Human Rights Council this week.

Closing borders and securitisation approaches to migration do not stop migration, he added; they simply encourage the use of alternative, often more dangerous migration routes.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted “the additional vulnerability of migrants” within populations in Central America, Br Armando González explained, as they face racism, harassment, arbitrary arrest, mass deportations, against a general absence of state protection.

The Franciscans urged the Human Rights Council to call on governments, particularly in the US and Mexico, to focus on protection over militarisation in response to human mobility in Central America, to stop deportations and detentions of migrants and asylum-seekers, and to protect social justice activists and Human Rights Defenders supporting the migrants.  

You can follow the presentation by Brother Armando González in full below:

In May 2020, responding to increased dangers for migrants during the COVID19 pandemic, the UN High Commission for Human Rights issued a 17-point guidance for states to protect the rights of all migrant workers and their families – regardless of their migration status. If implemented, these would greatly improve the safeguards for migrants at a time of enormous vulnerability.

For additional information and resources, check out:

The UN Committee on Migrant Workers

The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants Yiyao Zhang

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