BY ISN STAFF | December 3, 2015
On November 18, Honduras officials announced that they had intercepted five Syrian refugees who were bound for the U.S. in an effort to seek asylum. The refugees were later released after being forced to pay a fine of 10,000 lempiras each—equivalent to $450 USD—for the use of altered documents. Now the refugees will have to seek recognition of their refugee status in Honduras.
In response to this incident, the National Advocacy Office of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States has expressed grave concern over the refugees’ treatment. “We are very disturbed that they are forced to pay this fine, which is substantial, and seems a questionable punitive measure that contradicts the United Nations refugee convention’s Article 31 guidance,” said Shaina Aber, Policy Director of the Jesuits’ National Advocacy Office.
Aber continued: “The convention also says countries shouldn’t discriminate against asylum seekers because of their nationality, a legal norm that is clearly not being followed in the midst of worldwide concern about terrorism. This, despite the fact that it appears most, if not all, of the perpetrators of the Paris attack were French and Belgian nationals.”
Other incidents involving the arrest and detainment of Syrian refugees attempting to seek asylum in the U.S. have made headlines in recent days. In Costa Rica, a young Syrian woman who was intercepted while traveling to the U.S. is being prosecuted for document fraud. And at the Texas border, members of two Syrian families who presented themselves to ask for asylum are being held in detention centers.
Meanwhile, Jesuit organizations are raising concerns about governmental policies that punish those seeking to migrate, as well as the rhetoric of fear surrounding Syrian migrants. This week, the Jesuit Migration Network of Central and North America also released a statement urging the following:
- Governments should refrain from “disproportionate” actions against Syrians arriving in North America who are forced to move through irregular channels while fleeing desperate circumstances.
- National security measures should never be “detrimental” to victims of wars or other causes of forced displacement.
- The need to respect Article 31 of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.
- Calling on sister organizations and the media to avoid fueling “repressive and criminalizing actions” by governments and promote a “culture of hospitality” instead.
- Sharing the views of UNHCR on refusing to expel or return refugees to countries where they face a risk of torture or mistreatment.