DE FACTO SUSPENSION OF THE RIGHT TO SEEK ASYLUM AND REFUGE

The virtual talk will center around the extremely vulnerable situation of asylum seekers and refugees in various contexts in the Americas, before and during the pandemic. Given the current economic crises and the undeniable collapse of regional systems of social protection, we will talk about the most pressing state challenges to responding with their obligations in guaranteeing the right to international protection. The cases within Canada, the United States, Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Brazil will be analyzed.

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In the past decade, the number of asylum seekers and refugees in the Americas has had a notable increase. The region has been a receptacle for people driven out by violence in their home countries in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Within the continent, national violence has not ceased. Colombia continues to suffer from the effects of the historic armed conflict. The violence of organized crime and urban gangs persists in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. In Mexico, the war on drugs and the violence of organized crime have not ceased. Furthermore, in the past four years, poverty in Venezuela, combined with its complex political conflict, has expelled more than 4 million Venezuelans, including asylum seekers. Thus, the vast majority of countries in the continent have implemented direct actions to attend to Venezuelans in the need of international protection.

State responses have been dissimilar, limited and reduced, and above all, they have not sought to extend the right to asylum and refuge for the majority of applicants. Before the pandemic, there were already budget cuts, reversals, delays and contradictions in the mapped areas. This also includes the implementation of deliberate policies which sought reduce the number of recognitions or to transfer that process to third countries, putting universal human right at risk. Before the pandemic, countries that received the majority of asylum seekers and refugees such as Canada, the United States, Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Brazil, imposed restrictions on the application, directly affecting the lives of adult women and men, but also children and adolescents in need of international protection. The pandemic has worsened their vulnerability, exposing them to major risks. The temporal closure of borders in all country of the continent, as a measure to contain the COVID-19 has resulted in a de facto impediment to the exercise of the right to refuge and asylum in many of the mapped national spaces. As state responsible bodies have temporarily suspended their activities or moved to remote work, the resolution of asylum cases in process and the reception of new applications for asylum and refuge have also been suspended. As a result, there has been significant impact on individual applicants and families with children and adolescents, particularly Central Americans, Mexicans, Colombians, Venezuelans, Haitians and extra-continentals in diverse national spaces, who have been confined into a prolongated waiting time and a legal limbo that only exacerbates their previous conditions of vulnerability, socio-economic precarity,  and exposure to life risks.