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Uruguay - Refugees

The State of Uruguay is a party to the 1951 Convention on Refugee Status and its 1967 Protocol. It has also ratified the most relevant international instruments on human rights. The internal legal framework on refugees is established by the Refugees Act (Ley de Refugiados) N° 18.076, adopted in 2006.

The regulation clearly stipulates that in Uruguay every person has the right to request and receive refuge in national territory, to safeguard his/her life, physical, moral and intellectual integrity, freedom, and safety.

The law establishes that a refugee status will recognise every person that based on fears of being persecuted for reasons of belonging to a determined ethnic or social group, in addition to gender, race, religion, nationality, or political opinions, is found outside of his/her country of nationality and cannot or, as a result of such fears, does not want to accept the protection of that country; or that lacking nationality and found as a result of such events outside of the country where he/she had his/her usual residency, cannot or because of such fears, does not want to return to it; or that has fled the country of his/her nationality or lacking nationality, has fled from the country of residency because his/her life, safety, or freedom are threatened by generalised violence, foreign aggression or occupation, terrorism, internal conflicts, massive violation of human rights, or any other circumstance that has severely disturbed public law and order.

Conversely, the right to enjoy legal refugee status in Uruguayan territory will not apply to persons who are believed, based on grounded reasons to:

  • Have committed a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity, as defined by international law;
  • Have committed a serious common crime, in agreement with legal principles universally accepted, outside of national territory and before being admitted to it as a refugee;
  • Have been guilty of actions contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Every application for refugee status imposes on the State to respect the principles of non-discrimination, non-refusal at the border, non-refoulement directly or indirectly to the country where his/her life, physical, moral and intellectual integrity, freedom, or safety are in danger, non-sanction for illegal entry to the country, most favourable interpretation and treatment, and confidentiality.

Regarding the rights and duties of refugees, the law establishes that every refugee and applicant for refugee status must respect the legal regulations, while the State must guarantee to refugees and applicants for refugee status the enjoyment and exercise of the civil, economic, social, and cultural rights, and all of the other rights inherent to the human person recognised to the inhabitants of the Republic in the international instruments on human rights executed by the State, as well as its internal regulations.

This law creates the Refugee Committee (CORE, for its initials in Spanish), which is charged with deciding on petitions for asylum. The CORE is made up of representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Office of Migration, the University of the Republic, a representative of the National Congress, a representative of a non-profit, non-governmental organisation, and a representative of UNHCR, who may voice opinion but does not vote.

The Refugee Committee will create a Permanent Secretariat made up of honorary representatives, one from the National Office of Migration of the Ministry of the Interior, a representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and a delegate from the agency that represents the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Uruguay. Each organisation that forms part of the Permanent Secretariat will each designate a permanent representative and alternate.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees or its representative will always be a member invited to the meetings of the Permanent Secretariat, with the right to voice but without vote.

The decision that recognises, rejects, annuls, revokes, or stipulates cessation of refugee status will be notified to the petitioner in person and the office that represents the interests of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, within a maximum period of three business days in the manner determined by regulation.