Non-Discrimination and special protection for migrants and refugees



In the Americas, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) have established that the principle of equality and non-discrimination requires States to both ensure that migrants are not discriminated against on any of the protected grounds of the American Convention on Human Rights, as well as to take specific action to protect certain groups of migrants that are in a situation of vulnerability. Via a comparative quantitative analysis of the immigration and refugee laws, as well as implementing regulations, of 20 Latin American countries, we examine the extent of non-discrimination and special protection provided by the region’s migratory legislation. Our results reveal three main findings. First, more recent immigration and refugee laws tend to be more expansive, which reflects the period of migratory liberalisation in the region. Second, while non-discrimination clauses are more dominant in laws, special protection clauses are primarily present in implementing regulations. This suggests that countries see special protection as a tool to positive discrimination of particularly vulnerable groups. Third, although we identify an overall expansion on protection grounds, countries’ migratory laws mostly reflect traditional categories like: sex/gender; race/ethnicity/colour; nationality; economic/social condition; and religion. Overall, although laudable, the impact of these provisions on reversing structural discrimination from an intersectional approach remains questionable.

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