Honduras

4,000

Immigration detainees

2018

Not Available

Detained children

2017

104

New asylum applications

2019

75

Refugees

2019

38,933

International migrants

2019

Overview

Better known as the source of tens of thousands of undocumented children smuggled to North America in recent years, Honduras also has a long history detaining foreigners transiting its territory, at times with support from the United States. The country reportedly detained 2,526 migrants in 2013 and 1,198 in in 2012.

Types of facilities used for migration-related detention
Administrative Ad Hoc Criminal Unknown

29 May 2020

Migrants Coming Out of the Temporary Quarantine Centre in Tegucigalpa after having Been Deported From Mexico, (Jorge Cabrera, Reuters,
Migrants Coming Out of the Temporary Quarantine Centre in Tegucigalpa after having Been Deported From Mexico, (Jorge Cabrera, Reuters, "Migrantes y refugiados, entre los más afectados por el Covid-19," France 24, 5 May 2020, https://www.france24.com/es/20200504-migrantes-refugiados-afectados-covid19-pandemia-coronavirus)

As of early May, Honduras continued to receive some 100 returned men and women from the United States every day, according to the IOM (5 May). Although no cases of Covid-19 amongst returnees had yet to be detected, IOM reported that it was helping prepare Honduran authorities in the case of an outbreak, including working jointly with the US Agency for International Development on distributing testing kits.

The Honduran government has established locations in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula to house returned migrants from the United States and Mexico as they pass a 14-day period in quarantine. Data from the Consular and Immigration Observatory has revealed that between 1 March and 26 April, 5,822 persons were returned from the United States and Mexico. In addition, on 21 May, UNICEF reported that since early March, at least 1,000 unaccompanied migrant children have been returned from the USA to Mexico and northern Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras). Over the same period, at least 447 migrant children were returned from Mexico to Guatemala and Honduras. On 10 May, Mexico deported 42 Honduran nationals to Tegucigalpa, where they were placed in quarantine for 14 days. Amongst the returnees, there are two children, two women and 38 men.

UNICEF and other agencies have reported that limited public information about Covid-19 has caused confusion and fear among returnees and the communities they return to across the region. Within certain communities, there are worries that children and families returned from the US and Mexico could be carrying the virus. UNICEF has received reports of communities in Guatemala and Honduras barring physical entry to outside groups or strangers, including returnees, to prevent local transmission of the disease. A centre for returned migrants had to be closed as the local population protested as they feared that they would contract the disease.

The GDP has been unable to determine what if any measures have been taken to protect people in immigration proceedings in Honduras. However, the country has taken some steps in its prisons. On 12 March, when the government announced a state of emergency, all visits to prisons were suspended. In addition, staff and inmates received masks to wear during medical appointments or court hearings. As of mid-May, there had been three confirmed cases of Covid-19 within the country’s prisons and one death related to the disease in the prison of El Pozo. On 19 May, one detainee tested positive in the prison of El Porvenir. Authorities also announced that there would not be any new arrivals until further notice. Subsequently, on 21 May, an investigation revealed a lack of testing and isolation of prisoners who have had contact with sick inmates. 70 inmates shared common areas with the deceased prisoner and yet, very few measures have been taken since. Only 22 tests have reportedly been undertaken in the ‘El Pozo’ and ‘Tamara’ prisons.


20 March 2020

Families gather outside a Honduran prison (https://radiohrn.hn/suspenden-visitas-en-carceles-de-honduras-para-prevenir-contagio-de-coronavirus/)
Families gather outside a Honduran prison (https://radiohrn.hn/suspenden-visitas-en-carceles-de-honduras-para-prevenir-contagio-de-coronavirus/)

In mid-March, the Honduran government declared a state of “health emergency” and suspended all visits to prisons following reports of two confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country. In addition, staff and detainees must wear masks in Court. The GDP has been unable to obtain information concerning measures taken within the “Centros de Atención al Migrante Irregular” to avoid the spread of Covid-19. However, the Honduran government has put in place a plan of action in the “Centros de Atención al Migrante Retornado” to avoid contamination as it is estimated that between 250 and 400 Hondurans are returned to the country daily. Honduran authorities have indicated that “special treatment” to all returned persons will be provided and that the protocols established by the WHO are being followed.


Last updated: September 2015

Honduras Immigration Detention Profile

Honduras has one of the highest murder rates in the world, is plagued with very high levels of crime and gang violence, and most of its population is mired in poverty. In recent years, it has seen tens of thousands of adults and children seek the assistance of people smugglers to flee the country; upwards of a million Hondurans (or about 10 percent of the population) live abroad. In 2014, the arrival of thousands of Honduran children at the U.S.-Mexico border sparked a public panic in the United States, and many children and families ended up in hastily established detention centres as they awaited deportation back to Honduras.[1]

Honduras also serves as a transit country for people from neighbouring countries as well as so-called extracontinentals seeking passage north. A vast majority of transiting people come from Cuba, but there are also migrants from Nicaragua, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and India.[2]

Undocumented migrants are subject to detention even though the country’s immigration legislation fails to clearly provide for this practice. According to statistics provided by the Migration Directorate the country detained 2,526 migrants in 2013 and 1,198 in 2012.[3] The main countries of origin of detainees are Cuba, India, Bangladesh, Somalia, Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia.[4]

The country’s migration policy is provided in the 2003 Migration Law (Ley de Migracion y Extranjeria) and the 2004 Migration Regulation (Reglamento de la Ley de Migracion y Extranjeria). Both the Law and Regulation are vague on the issue of detention. The only provision that explicitly mentions immigration detention is article 8(16) of the Migration Law, which describes the responsibilities of the Migration Directorate (Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería), recently rebranded as National Institute for Migration (Instituto Nacional de Migracion). One of its responsibilities is to temporarily detain (custodiar, literally “to guard” or “to keep”) migrants in special assistance centres (“centros especiales de atencion”) while their migration status is being decided or deportation or expulsion organized.

Grounds for deportation and expulsion appear to indirectly serve as grounds for detention. Under the Migration Law, deportation may be ordered when: a non-citizen has entered or stayed in the country using false documents; remains in the country following the cancellation of a right to stay; or has entered the country without authorization (Migration Law, article 88). Foreigners also face expulsion after serving penal sentences, for undertaking activities not allowed by his/her permit, or for re-entering to the country after expulsion (Migration Law, article 89).

The law fails to provide a maximum length of detention. However, authorities interpret some provisions of the Migration Law, which are unrelated to detention, to limit the length of detention to 90 days. In practice, however, migrants tend to be detained for two to four weeks. There are no alternatives to detention, in law or in practice.[5]

The Migration Law also fails to provide any detention-related procedural safeguards. Observers in Honduras told the Global Detention Project that in practice detained migrants are informed about reasons for their detention and have access to a lawyer, paid by them, if they request. However, in the majority of cases, the only legal advice given to detainees is provided by civil society organizations. Some migration officers speak English and can help detainees understand the process; however, this practice is not systematic or predictable. The only possibility to appeal detention is to bring habeas corpus action. Yet, such appeals are extremely rare in practice. There is no automatic review of detention.[6]

Honduras operates two dedicated immigration detention facilities. Like its neighbours, the country employs euphemisms to name these centres, which are officially called Centros de Atención al Migrante Irregular (CAMI), or “Irregular Migrant Attention Centre.” (Nicaragua, for example, calls its facility the “Migrants Shelter Centre.”).The centres are located at the premises of the Migration Directorate in Tegucigalpa and Choluteca. Before opening the centres around 2010, migrants were already detained in these facilities, however in an informal manner. Both centres have a capacity to detain approximately 20 migrants but usually there are no more than 10 people on a given day.[7]

Men and women are detained separately. Minors, following a short period of detention while their age is determined, are released from the centres and placed in care centres managed by the National Directorate for Children and Family (Dirección Nacional de la Niñez y la Familia). If a child travels with his mother, they are both placed in a care centre.[8]

According to GDP sources in Honduras, the cost per detainee per day is around 12 USD (this includes only food, drinking water, and items of the basic hygiene).[9] Reportedly the conditions of detention are very basic, both in terms of food and equipment of the centres. In general, authorities tend to allow visits by civil society organizations. The Ombudsperson, who is authorized by law to monitor all the places of detention in the country, visits the centres on rare occasions.[10]

Honduras and U.S. Anti-Smuggling Operations

Observers have criticized the United States for pressuring Honduras and its neighbours to detain transiting migrants because it is cheaper.[11] A case in point was Honduras’ involvement in U.S.-led anti-smuggling operations during the 1990s and 2000s called “Operation Disrupt,” which targeted migration and smuggling activities in the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras, and Canada.[12]

In 1997, when “Disrupt” anti-smuggling operations were subsumed under the rubric a larger U.S. initiative called “Global Reach,” U.S. immigration officials significantly broadened the scope of their Latin American activities. These included undertaking annual multilateral interception operations with law enforcement personnel from dozens of Latin American countries. According to activists in these countries, during the operations, U.S. immigration agents accompanied local authorities to restaurants, hotels, border crossings, checkpoints, and airports to help identify and apprehend suspicious travelers.[13]

In a series of yearly press statements in the late 1990s and early 2000s, U.S. authorities proudly announced the results of each operation. In 2000, for example, the INS (U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service) declared that year’s Disrupt operation, “Forerunner,” to be the “largest anti-smuggling operation ever conducted in the Western Hemisphere.” Involving agents from six Latin America countries, the operation nabbed 3,500 migrants and 38 smugglers.[14]

Forerunner was followed in 2001 by “Crossroads International,” which the INS again described as the “largest multinational anti-smuggling operation ever conducted in the Western Hemisphere,” this one resulting in the arrest of 75 smugglers and the interdiction of some 8,000 migrants from 39 countries. “The wide-ranging anti-smuggling operation was directed by the INS Mexico City District Office and involved … law enforcement officers in Columbia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, and Peru,” said a press statement.[15]

Officials in countries participating in the U.S.-led anti-smuggling operations often received U.S. budgetary assistance to help detain and deport migrants. In 2000, for example, the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB), which had sent a delegation to Central America to study regional migration issues, issued a scathing press release decrying U.S. interdiction activities in the region. As part of the trip, the bishops representatives visited a prison in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, that was filled with migrants who had been detained during Operation Forerunner. Said the press release:

“We are gravely concerned with the human impact of Operation Forerunner, a multilateral regional effort purportedly designed to apprehend and prosecute human smugglers, or ‘coyotes,’ who provide transport to migrants through the region and on their journey north. We strongly agree that these smugglers, who charge migrants as much as $5,000 to shepherd their trip, should be captured and brought to justice. However, Operation Forerunner has had the effect of targeting migrants more than the persons who smuggle them, resulting in many migrants being placed in substandard prisons in the region without representation or the opportunity to apply for asylum. … The results of Operation Forerunner give us pause as to the real objectives of the initiative. In each of the countries visited, the governments apprehended only a handful of ‘coyotes’ while capturing several thousand migrants, jailing many of them, and returning them to their countries. The U.S. government has been intimately involved in these interdiction efforts, offering teams of ‘advisors’ to the Central American governments and paying for the return of extra-regional migrants to their homes. As one U.S. embassy official informed us, ‘It is less expensive to take care of the problem here than when they reach the United States.’”[16]

 


[1] Telesur, “Migrant Mothers, Children Could Be Freed from US Detention,” 12 May 2015, "http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Migrant-Mothers-Children-Could-Be-Freed-from-US-Detention-20150512-0004.html"

[2] Hondudiario. "ACNUR conocerá causas de migración hondureña a Costa Rica." 29 January 2015. http://www.hondudiario.com/?q=node/16656

[3] Hondudiario. "ACNUR conocerá causas de migración hondureña a Costa Rica." 29 January 2015. http://www.hondudiario.com/?q=node/16656

[4] Undisclosed source. Phone calls with Izabella Majcher (Global Detention Project). September 2015.

[5] Undisclosed source. “GDP Questionnaire on Honduras.” September 2014. Undisclosed source. Phone calls with Izabella Majcher (Global Detention Project). September 2015.

[6] Undisclosed source. “GDP Questionnaire on Honduras.” September 2014. Undisclosed source. Phone calls with Izabella Majcher (Global Detention Project). September 2015.

[7] Hondudiario. "ACNUR conocerá causas de migración hondureña a Costa Rica." 29 January 2015. http://www.hondudiario.com/?q=node/16656. Undisclosed source. Phone calls with Izabella Majcher (Global Detention Project). September 2015.  

[8] Undisclosed source. “GDP Questionnaire on Honduras.” September 2014.

[9] Undisclosed source. Email exchange with Izabella Majcher (Global Detention Project). September 2014.

[10] Undisclosed source. Phone calls with Izabella Majcher (Global Detention Project). September 2015.

[11] U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). 2000. “Statement on Visit to Central American Nations of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras.” 10 November 2000.

[12] For more detailed information about these anti-smuggling operations, see Michael Flynn,  “There and Back Again: On the Diffusion of Immigration Detention,” Journal on Migration and Human Security, 2014, http://jmhs.cmsny.org/index.php/jmhs/article/view/31.

[13] Michael Flynn, “Donde Esta La Frontera,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, July/August 2002, http://www.globaldetentionproject.org/fileadmin/publications/Flynn_frontera.pdf.

[14] U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). 2000. “INS and Central American Governments Disrupt Alien Smuggling Operations.” INS Press Release. October 17, 2000.

[15] U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). 2001. “Largest Multinational Alien Smuggling Operation Results in 7,898 Arrests in Latin America and Caribbean, International Cooperation of 14 Nations Called Key to Success,” INS Press Release. June 27, 2001.

[16] U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). 2000. “Statement on Visit to Central American Nations of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras.” 10 November 2000.

IMMIGRATION AND DETENTION-RELATED STATISTICS

Total number of immigration detainees by year
4,000
2018
2,526
2013
1,198
2012
Total number of detained minors
Not Available
2017
Immigration detainees as a percentage of total international migrant population
9.2
2013
Estimated total immigration detention capacity
40
2015
Number of dedicated long-term immigration detention centres
2
2015
Estimated capacity of dedicated long-term immigration detention centres
40
2015
Number of dedicated medium-term immigration detention centres
0
2014
Number of immigration offices
0
2014
Number of transit facilities
0
2014
Number of criminal facilities
0
2014
Number of ad hoc facilities
0
2014
Criminal prison population
17,253
2016
12,969
2013
12,336
2011
10,809
2008
11,589
2005
11,502
2002
9,551
1998
8,933
1995
5,717
1992
Percentage of foreign prisoners
1.3
2011
1.2
2010
Prison population rate (per 100,000 of national population)
200
2016
160
2013
159
2011
148
2008
167
2005
176
2002
160
1998
158
1995
109
1992
Population
9,900,000
2020
8,075,000
2015
7,900,000
2012
International migrants
38,933
2019
28,100
2015
27,500
2013
International migrants as a percentage of the population
0.3
2015
0.3
2013
Refugees
75
2019
27
2018
25
2017
11
2016
30
2015
16
2014
Total number of new asylum applications
104
2019
9
2016
11
2014
9
2012
Refugee recognition rate
100
2014
Stateless persons
0
2016
0
2015
1
2014
Number of immigration detainees on a given day
Top nationalities of detainees
Number of persons granted alternatives to immigration detention
Number of detained asylum seekers
Number of detained unaccompanied minors
Number of detained accompanied minors
Number of detained stateless persons
Number of apprehensions of non-citizens
Number of persons removed/returned (voluntary returns and deportations)
Number of deportations/forced returns only
Percentage of persons removed in relation to total number of people placed in removal procedures
Estimated number of undocumented migrants
Ratio of refugees per 1000 inhabitants

SOCIO-ECONOMIC INDICATORS

Gross Domestic Product per capita (in USD)
2,434
2014
2,291
2013
Remittances to the country
3,329
2014
2,873
2011
Remittances from the country
10
2010
Unemployment Rate
2014
Net official development assistance (ODA) (in millions USD)
603.9
2014
Human Development Index Ranking (UNDP)
131 (Medium)
2015
129 (Medium)
2014
Unemployment rate amongst migrants
Detention for deterrence
Pew Global Attitudes Poll on Immigration
Immigration Index Score
World Bank Rule of Law Index
Domestic Opinion Polls on Immigration

DOMESTIC LAWS AND POLICIES

Legal tradition
Civil law
Constitutional guarantees?
Yes (Political Constitution, articles 69, 71, and 84) 2005 2005
2005
Core pieces of national legislation
Ley de Migración y Extranjería, Decree 208-2003 (2003)
2003
Regulations, standards, guidelines
REGLAMENTO DE LA LEY DE MIGRACIÓN Y EXTRANJERÍA (2004)
2004
Immigration-status-related grounds
Detention to effect removal
2015
Detention to establish/verify identity and nationality
2015
Detention for unauthorised entry or stay
2015
Detention for unauthorized stay resulting from criminal conviction
2015
Average length of detention
21
2014
Provision of basic procedural standards
Information to detainees (No) Yes
2015
Right to legal counsel (No) Yes
2015
Access to free interpretation services (No) No
2015
Independent review of detention (No) No
2015
Impact of alternatives
Not applicable (There are no alternatives)
2015
Is the detention of vulnerable persons provided in law? Are they detained in practice?
Unaccompanied minors (Not mentioned) No
2015
Additional legislation
Non-immigration-status-related grounds providing for administrative detention in immigration legislation.
Does the country provide specific criminal penalties for immigration-related violations?
Grounds for criminal immigration-related detention/incarceration and maximum potential duration of incarceration
Has the country decriminalized immigration-related violations?
Maximum length for administrative immigration detention in law.
Longest recorded instance of immigration detention.
Maximum length of time in custody prior to issuance of a detention order
Maximum length of detention for asylum-seekers
Maximum length of detention for persons detained upon arrival at ports of entry
Types of non-custodial measures
Mandatory detention
Expedited/fast track removal
Re-entry ban

INTERNATIONAL LAW

International treaties
Ratification Year
Individual complaints procedure
Acceptance Year
CRPD, Optional Protocol to o the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2010
2010
ICCPR, First Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966 2005
2005
Ratio of complaints procedures accepted
Observation Date
2/9
2/9
Relevant recommendations issued by treaty bodies
Recommendation Year
Committee on Migrant Workers 37. The Committee recommends that the State party should strengthen actions aimed at protecting the right to freedom of Honduran migrant workers and their families in Mexico and the United States, in particular through: (a) Initiatives and bilateral dialogues that aim to ensure that detention is used only as an exceptional measure and a last resort by States where Honduran migrant workers reside or are in transit; (b) The strengthening, expansion and enhancement of consular actions aimed at protecting migrant workers and members of their families who are deprived of their liberty, particularly those detained for reasons of migration, through the provision of free legal assistance and the promotion of access to justice and other guarantees of due process. The Committee also recommends that the State party should regularly produce and disseminate qualitative and quantitative information on any form of deprivation of liberty suffered by migrant workers and members of their families in the State party. Furthermore, it recommends that any detention for reasons of migration should be in full conformity with existing legislation, in particular the Convention, and should be subject to the principle of exceptionality and in accordance with general comment No. 2 (2013) on the rights of migrant workers in an irregular situation and members of their families. 2016
2016
Committee on Migrant Workers §55. The Committee urges the State party to take all necessary steps to safeguard the rights of the various categories of children and adolescents in the context of migration. In particular, it recommends that the State party: (a) Strengthen and deepen its cooperation with countries of transit and destination with a view to adopting policies and protocols designed to ensure that children’s rights in the context of migration are respected in practice; in particular, the State party should: (i) End the detention of children on grounds of their migration status or that of their parents; (ii) Devise alternatives — in law and in practice — to the detention of families and unaccompanied or separated minors, and ensure their implementation under the coordination of national and/or local organizations responsible for the comprehensive protection of children; [...] 2016
2016
Regional legal instruments
Year of Ratification (Treaty) / Transposed (Directive) / Adoption (Regulation)
ACHR, American Convention on Human Rights 1977
1977
IACFDP, Inter-American convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons 2005
2005
CBDP, Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women (Convention of Belem do Para) 1995
1995
APACHR, Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 2011
2011
Visits by special procedures of the Human Rights Council
Year of Visit
Observation Date
Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions 2003
2003
2015
Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance 2004
2004
2015
Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography 2012
2012
2015
Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences 2014
2014
2015
Working Group on arbitrary detention 2006
2006
2015
Relevant recommendations of the UN Universal Periodic Review
Observation Date
No 2015
2017
No 2011
Ratio of relevant international treaties ratified
International treaty reservations
Treaty bodies decisions on individual complaints
Regional treaty reservations
Regional judicial decisions on individual complaints
Recommendations issued by regional human rights mechanisms
Bilateral/multilateral agreements linked to readmission
Relevant recommendations by UN Special Procedures

INSTITUTIONAL INDICATORS

Federal or centralized governing system
Centralized system
2015
Centralized or decentralized immigration authority
Centralized immigration authority
2014
Custodial authority
Instituto Nacional de Migracion ()
2015
Instituto Nacional de Migracion (Secretaría de Estado en los Despachos de Derechos Humanos, Justicia, Gobernación y Descentralización ) Justice
2014
Detention Facility Management
Instituto Nacional de Migracion (Governmental)
2014
Formally designated detention estate?
Yes (Dedicated immigration detention facilities)
2015
Types of detention facilities used in practice
Yes ()
2014
Authorized monitoring institutions
Comisionado Nacional de los Derechos Humanos (National Human Rights Institution (or Ombudsperson) (NHRI))
2015
Does NHRI carry out visits?
No
2015
Estimated cost per detainees day (in USD)
12
2014
Apprehending authorities
Is the national human rights institution (NHRI) recognized as independent?
Does NHRI have capacity to receive complaints?
Does NHRI publicly release reports on immigration detention?
Does national preventive mechanism (NPM) carry out visits?
Does NPM have capacity to receive complaints?
Does NPM publicly release reports on immigration detention?
Do NGOs carry out visits?
NGO capacity to receive complaints?
Do NGOs publish reports on immigration detention?
Do parliamentary organs carry out visits?
Do parliamentary organs have capacity to receive complaints?
Do parliamentary organs publicly report on their detention findings?
Do internal inspection agencies (IIAs) carry out visits?
Do IIAs have capacity to receive complaints?
Do IIAs publicly report their findings from detention inspections?
Do international and/or regional bodies (IRBs) visit immigration-related detention facilities?
Do IRBs publicly report their findings from inspections?
Types of privatisation/outsourcing
Detention contractors and other non-state entities
Estimated annual budget for detention operations
Estimated annual budgets for particular detention-related activities
Estimated annual budget for non-custodial measures (in USD)
Estimated costs of non-custodial measures (in USD)
Does the country receive external sources of funding?
Description of foreign assistance