Update on UNHCR’s operations in the Americas
Executive Committee of the High Commissioner’s Programme
Geneva, 1-5 October 2012
A. Situational analysis including new developments
In the Americas region, the implementation of pledges made during the Ministerial Intergovernmental Event1, held in December 2011, have been consolidated in the following areas:
Several States in the region made pledges at the Intergovernmental Event to address statelessness, including in relation to accession to one or both of the statelessness conventions and the establishment of statelessness determination procedures. Paraguay has since completed its pledge to accede to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.
Refugee-related legislation and procedures
In the Plurinational State of Bolivia, new legislation on refugee protection was approved. Law 251 includes such core international protection standards as the principle of non-refoulement and the non-imposition of penalties for illegal entry or presence. It also adopts an age, gender and diversity perspective in granting refugee protection. UNHCR is currently supporting the Government in finalizing the law’s implementation.
In Ecuador, potentially significant amendments to asylum procedures were introduced with the passing of Decree 3301 in May. The decree reduces the time frame for lodging a refugee claim, creates additional possibilities for the revocation and revision of refugee status, and removes the extended refugee definition as provided by the Cartagena Declaration. UNHCR will assess the impact of these changes, seeking to ensure that safeguards and the fairness and quality of decisions are maintained.
Canada passed the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act in June. The asylum reform introduces a series of procedural requirements aimed at reducing abuse of the system. UNHCR will continue to offer advice and engage constructively with the Canadian authorities as the new regulations are implemented.
In the United States of America, the reform of legislation affecting refugees and asylum-seekers has not progressed. Laws that include broad criminal and terrorism-related bars continue to prevent certain categories of refugees from being resettled.
Bolivia and Honduras passed anti-trafficking laws, which address the protection needs of victims.
Mexico took an important step towards improving its protection framework with the signing of the Law on Refugees and Complementary Protection, which fosters local integration. Costa Rica re-established its Refugee Unit and Administrative Migration Tribunal.
Strengthening refugee status determination
The legislative developments in Central America and Mexico have generated the political will needed for the implementation of the Quality Assurance Initiative. Launched earlier this year, this initiative between UNHCR, Costa Rica, Mexico and Panama strengthens the quality of asylum procedures and decisions and ensures that standards and safeguards are aligned throughout the region.
In the Dominican Republic, UNHCR welcomed the reactivation of the National Eligibility Commission, which met in June for the first time since 2005. The resumption of the Commission’s work is a breakthrough for refugee protection in the country.
Since 2004, more than 1,100 refugees have been resettled in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay under the Solidarity Resettlement Programme. The programme aims to provide support to countries in the region that are hosting large number of refugees. In Argentina, UNHCR signed agreements with the federal authorities and the National Eligibility Commission on the provision of housing and employment opportunities for resettled refugees. In Uruguay, resettlement in rural areas is being explored for a number of cases.