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Legal Guide for the Protection of Venezuelan Refugees and Migrants against Forced Evictions, February 2021

Manual and Guideline
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The right to adequate housing, despite having been recognized by multiple international instruments, continues to be a human right that is consistently violated. Around 2O% of the world's population do not have adequate housing1 . In Latin America, informal settlements generally lack the conditions required to live a decent life, and local and national public policies fail to radically transform this situation.

It is in this precarious context that the mobility of millions of Venezuelan men and women in the region occurs, highlighting serious gaps in the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights in the countries where refugees and migrants arrive. As a result, their precarious situation is added to the difficulties faced by host communities or to become part of an informal housing and land market that does not guarantee adequate housing.

The right to adequate housing is a human right of all people, regardless of their migratory status, official documentation, gender, ethnic, age, etc. It is also a human right that serves as a basis for other fundamental rights necessary to guarantee human dignity, such as the right to health, water, education, privacy and others. During the COVID-19 health emergency, having adequate housing has become a necessary factor to ensure protection, and in many cases to survive. In the context of the pandemic, Resolution 1/2020 of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights recommended that the States Parties immediately reinforce the implementation of the human rights approach by guaranteeing full compliance with inter-American and international human rights standards within the framework of their universality, interdependence, indivisibility and transversality, particularly economic, social, cultural and environmental rights (ESCR).

This Legal Guide, as part of the Regional Toolbox for the Mitigation of Eviction Risks, seeks to strengthen the technical capacity of the 104 partner organizations that form the Regional Protection Sector of the Platform for the response to refugees and migrants from Venezuela (hereinafter "R4V Platform"), who have been evicted and/or are at risk of eviction. This is achieved through the identification of housing tenure typologies in the region, existing alternatives for legal responses and mechanisms available for the defense of the right to adequate housing. This Legal Guide aims to strengthen the process of analysis and guidance for the population by identifying key actors involved in mechanisms that facilitate the reestablishment and protection of the rights to life, security, liberty and physical integrity for this population.

Each State in the region has its own institutions, public policies and legal frameworks that must be aligned with international human rights obligations. The Legal Guide benefited from the valuable contributions of staff working in the national protection sectors of Ecuador, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Panama and the Caribbean Subregion, as well as the experiences of public officials from the Public Defenders and Ombudsmen's Offices in Ecuador and Brazil. These entities have strengthened their monitoring and guidance schemes for refugees and migrants who have faced increased violations of their right to adequate housing in the context of COVID-19.

The right to adequate housing, like all rights with economic, social and cultural content has a progressive nature and requires the full use of the "maximum available resources" of the entities in charge of local and national public policies. This right is related to the possibility of access to justice systems and effective remedies. It is a right that also implies immediate obligations of respect, protection and prevention based on civil and political human rights in which interdependence and indivisibility must be considered in relation to ESCER. This means that it is a human right, the fulfillment of which is subject to the implementation of specialized housing and land institutions, laws, local and national public policies and benefit programs and sometimes judicial decisions.

The State's obligation regarding the right to adequate housing can involve short, medium and, in many cases, long-term commitments. For this reason, and based on the scope of their missions, teams in the field must determine the duration of their intervention strategies. In the context of alliances with other organizations, it is important to define the role that each organization plays and what concrete actions they can contribute to the fulfillment of the right to adequate housing. Specifically, this Legal Guide contributes to:

  • Establish the rights of refugees and migrants in accordance with the international obligations of States in situations of risk of eviction, evictions in progress and post-eviction situations according to the type of housing tenure or shelters and special protection needs.

  • Strengthen the capacity of humanitarian and other organizations to provide support with a differential approach to communities or families of refugees and migrants, victims or people at risk of forced eviction and strengthen the role of community organizations that provide support.

  • Refer cases to the relevant authorities that require some type of support/intervention that exceeds the role of the R4V Platform/ Protection Sector and represent an increase in the level of exposure of the population to this risk.

  • Identify strategic allies that, from a multisectoral approach, can contribute to the defense of the right to adequate housing.