LOS ANGELES, CA – Four CARICOM leaders on Friday joined their counterparts from Latin America, the United States and Canada in signing the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection.
The Heads of Government of Barbados, Belize, Haiti and Jamaica gathered with 16 other counterparts in Los Angeles, California, on the margins of the Ninth Summit of the Americas, to reiterate their will to “strengthen national, regional, and hemispheric efforts to create the conditions for safe, orderly, humane, and regular migration and to strengthen frameworks for international protection and cooperation.”
“We embrace the need to promote the political, economic, security, social, and environmental conditions for people to lead peaceful, productive, and dignified lives in their countries of origin,” the declaration states. “Migration should be a voluntary, informed choice and not a necessity.
“We are committed to protecting the safety and dignity of all migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and stateless persons, regardless of their migratory status, and respecting their human rights and fundamental freedoms,” it adds. “We intend to cooperate closely to facilitate safe, orderly, humane, and regular migration and, as appropriate, promote safe and dignified returns, consistent with national legislation, the principle of non-refoulement, and our respective obligations under international law.”
The leaders acknowledged that addressing irregular international migration requires a regional approach, and that ongoing health, social, and economic challenges of the pandemic exacerbate the root causes driving irregular migration, including the vulnerabilities of many migrants and their communities.
“We value the tradition of our region in welcoming refugees and migrants and showing solidarity with our neighbors,” the declaration says. “We recognize the positive contributions of refugees and migrants to the socio-economic development of their host communities.
“We recognize the sustained efforts of States in our hemisphere in hosting refugees, providing regular migration pathways, promoting local economic and social integration, facilitating safe, dignified and voluntary return, and supporting the sustainable reintegration of returnees,” it adds.
The leaders said they remain committed to collectively leveraging the benefits of migration while addressing its challenges in countries and communities of origin, transit, destination and return.
“We do so in a spirit of collaboration, solidarity, and shared responsibility among States and in partnership with civil society and international organizations,” they said. “We reaffirm our shared commitment to supporting host communities; strengthening and expanding regular pathways and access to international protection; fostering opportunities for decent work; facilitating regularization and access to basic services; and promoting principles of safe, orderly, humane, and regular migration.”
The Heads of States and Government also intend to strengthen the institutions that are responsible for migration management in their countries and to exchange best practices in order to provide “efficient and adequate care to migrants and access to protection for refugees.”
In promoting stability and assistance for communities of destination, origin, transit and return, they affirmed that countries of origin and countries and communities hosting large numbers of migrants and refugees may need international financing and assistance related to development, basic humanitarian needs, protection, security, public health, education, financial inclusion, and employment, among others.
In addition, the leaders said they support efforts that allow all migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and persons in situations of vulnerability to integrate into host countries and access legal identity, regular status, dignified employment, public services, and international protection, when appropriate and in accordance with national legislation, to rebuild their lives and contribute to those communities.
They plan to continue efforts to prevent and reduce statelessness, and intend to expand efforts to address the root causes of irregular migration throughout the hemisphere, improving conditions and opportunities in countries of origin and promoting respect for human rights.
“We reaffirm the importance of safe, dignified, and sustainable return, readmission, and reintegration of migrants to help them reestablish themselves in their communities of origin,” the leaders said.
“We further reaffirm the importance of ensuring all foreign nationals receive prompt consular assistance when needed or requested, and returnees are treated humanely and in a dignified manner, regardless of their immigration status, including in the process of their repatriation and return,” they added.
Recognizing the imperative of promoting safe, orderly and regular migration, and the safety of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in the region, the leaders pledged to work to cooperate in emergency response and humanitarian assistance in situations of mass migration and refugee movements.
They also plan to strengthen existing regional coordination mechanisms and, as appropriate, the participation of civil society and international organizations to advance those aims.
This includes strengthening information sharing, as appropriate and in accordance with national legislation, enhancing early warning systems, leveraging existing relevant fora and processes, and defining a common set of triggers that activate a coordinated response.
In order to advance the common goals laid out in this Declaration and create the conditions for safe, orderly, humane and regular migration, through robust responsibility sharing, the leaders said they intend to work together across the hemisphere to convene multilateral development banks, international financial institutions, and traditional and non-traditional donors to review financial support instruments for countries hosting migrant populations and facing other migration challenges, “without prejudice to existing financing priorities and programs.”
The declarants also pledged to improve regional cooperation mechanisms for law enforcement cooperation, information sharing, protection-sensitive border management, visa regimes and regularization processes, as appropriate and in accordance with national legislation.
In addition, they plan to strengthen and expand temporary labor migration pathways, as feasible, that benefit countries across the region, including through new programs promoting connections between employers and migrant workers, robust safeguards for ethical recruitment, and legal protections for workers’ rights.
The leaders vowed to improve access to public and private services for all migrants, refugees and stateless persons “to promote their full social and economic inclusion in host communities” and to expand access to regular pathways for migrants and refugees to include family reunification options where appropriate and feasible, in accordance with national legislation.
The Declaration builds on existing efforts and international commitments, and advances the vision set forth in the Global Compact on Refugees and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) anchored in the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
“We make this Declaration of non-legally binding commitments to enhance cooperation and shared responsibilities on managing migration and protection in ways grounded in human rights, transparency, nondiscrimination and State sovereignty,” the leaders said.
During the Endorsement Event for the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection, United States President Joe Biden said that, by signing the Declaration, the 20 countries are transforming their approach to managing migration in the Americas.
“Each of us is signing up to commitments that recognizes the challenges we all share and the responsibility that impacts on all of our nations,” he said. “It’s going to take all of our nations working together in partnership to address this migration issue.
“And no nation should bear this responsibility alone, in my view — our view,” he added. “The economic futures depend on one another. Each of our futures depend on one another.
“And our security is linked in ways that I don’t think most people in my country fully understand, and maybe not in your countries as well,” Biden continued. “Our common humanity demands that we care for our neighbors by working together.”
He said the Los Angeles Declaration is built around four core pillars: Stability and assistance – making sure the communities that are welcoming refugees can afford to care for them, to educate them in their education, medical care, shelter and job opportunities; increasing pathways for legal migration throughout the region, as well as protections for refugees; working together to implement more humane and coordinated border management systems; and making sure leaders work together to respond to emergencies.
“You know, we know that safe, orderly and legal migration is good for all our economies,” Biden said. “But we need to halt the dangerous and unlawful ways people are migrating — and the dangerous ways.
“Unlawful migration is not acceptable, and we’ll secure our borders, including through innovative, coordinated actions with our regional partners,” he added, stating that the United States will be helping its partners in the region to continue welcoming refugees and migrants by providing economic support.
For example, Biden said Washington will provide more than US$300 million in new funding in humanitarian assistance for countries in the region, “so when migrants arrive on their doorstep, they can provide a place to stay, make sure migrants can see a doctor, find opportunities to work so they don’t have to undertake the dangerous journey north.”
In addition, he disclosed that the US will provide “millions more”, including through the World Bank, to support countries and communities that are carrying the greatest responsibility for migrants.
He said that in the next two years, Washington will resettle 20,000 refugees from the region.
“In addition, we recently resumed the Cuban Family Reunification Program — Parole Program,” the US president said. “We’re resuming increasing access to the Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program, with a goal of admitting 20,000 per year per country.”
He said his administration also dedicated to an additional 11,500 H-2B non-agricultural temporary work visas to open opportunities for workers from Haiti and north Central American countries.
“I hope more countries will see the potential for joining the Los Angeles Declaration,” Biden said. “And I want to thank all of my fellow leaders on this stage for committing to this historic new vision for our region.”