2nd July 2014

Dear Sir or Madam,

Please accept cordial greetings from PBI Guatemala. The purpose of this Alert is to bring attention to and share our grave concern following the cancellation of the temporary residence permits of two volunteers of the PBI Guatemala project. This measure was decided by the Sub-directorate for Foreign Citizen issues which is part of the Office of Migration Services (Dirección General de Migración, DGM) and the Ministry of Interior (Ministerio de Gobernación), in two resolutions dated 1st July, without stating the reasons or events that led to this decision. The resulting situation affects both individuals and their immigration status, as well as the work of international accompaniment and observation for the defence of human rights which PBI has carried out in Guatemala for over 30 years.

On July 1st 2014, two PBI volunteers, of Chilean and Spanish nationality, presented themselves at the Office of Migration Services, which had summoned them via written notice on 25th June (Received 26th June) to provide “information with regards to their temporal residency permits”. In the meeting, during which the legal representative of PBI Guatemala as well as a lawyer were present, the volunteers were informed that their temporal residency had been cancelled and that they have 10 days to leave the country. The written resolutions issued by the migration authorities refer to articles of Guatemalan migration legislation specifying in particular the various powers of the Office of Migration Services, such as the cancellation of temporary residence permits that have been granted, by issuing a reasoned judgement (Article 74 of the Migration Act), as well as “to suspend the stay of foreigners due to reasons linked to public order, national interest and state security” (Art 92). However, the resolutions lack any reasoning on the basis of specific evidence to justify the decision and fail to refer to any actions of PBI or its volunteers.

PBI Guatemala has enjoyed legal status en Guatemala since 1995 and is duly registered and accredited by the competent public authorities, with legal representation and capacity to act within the framework of its mandate and mission. Each PBI volunteer initiates the process of application for temporary residence upon arrival in the country in compliance with immigration law. At all times PBI and its volunteers in Guatemala act in accord with the legal framework. National authorities are regularly informed on our work both in Guatemala and outside the country.

The two PBI volunteers to whom the resolutions refer, observed the violent eviction of the Protest Camp of the Peaceful Resistance of La Puya on 23rd May. In June, PBI Guatemala issued an alert calling for attention to these events. During the eviction, representatives of the Office of Migration Services were present but subsequently left without approaching the PBI observers, after police officers had checked their migration status by revising their identification documents, only to find them in order.

Over the following weeks, various articles with defamatory comments against foreigners and international organisations were published in the Guatemalan media. We are concerned that the cancellation of the temporary residence permits of two of our volunteers may be related to false information on the work of international observation during the eviction which was published by the media.

In the current context characterized by the closure of spaces for human rights defenders, we are also concerned that the above-mentioned resolutions undermine the possibilities of international accompaniment and observation which aims to protect spaces for non-violent conflict resolution and the promotion of human rights in Guatemala. The work carried out in the country by PBI responds to the request of social organizations and actors who have the right to defend their rights and to seek international accompaniment and observation, when they face threats and attacks due to their line of work.

Based on the information presented and concerns highlighted, PBI seeks the attention of the international community and requests it to adopt all possible measures, such as:

• Through statements directed at the President of the Republic and the Ministry of the Interior:

  • Express its knowledge and support for the work of PBI in Guatemala;
  • Indicate its concern about the cancellation of the temporary residence permits of two PBIvolunteers in the country;
  • Request the annulment of the unwarranted resolutions issued by the Office of MigrationServices on July 1st, in order to allow both volunteers to recover their temporary residencepermits which had been granted;
  • Remind the Guatemalan State of its obligation to protect human rights defenders and reiteratethe importance of their work and of international accompaniment and observation when requested due to threats and attacks against them;

• Inform the Human Rights Ombudsman (PDH), the Presidential Commission of Human Rights (COPREDEH) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MAE) on the situation, calling on them to support PBI and its volunteers in the country in light of the actions taken by the Ministry of Interior and the Office of Migration Services (Dirección General de Migración, DGM).

  • In particular we request the diplomatic missions and Ministries of Foreign Affairs and/or development cooperation of Chile and Spain, to demand a clarification from the responsible institutions for the withdrawal of the temporary residence permits of its citizens. Additionally we ask them to ensure that the corresponding due process in migration procedures is followed, in order to guarantee the validity of their temporary residence permits.
  • Publicly express support for the work of human rights defenders in Guatemala and their right to receive accompaniment from PBI and other organizations through the channels deemed appropriate.

We would like to thank you in advance for your concern and support, we will continue to keep you informed on this situation.

Peace Brigades International, Guatemala Project