April 5, 1984
His Excellency Juan Agurcia Ewing
Ambassador of Honduras
4301 Connecticut Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
Dear Mr. Ambassador:
I write concerning a matter of deep concern both to your Government and to the Catholic Church, the situation of the refugees in Honduras.
Your government and the Honduran people have been most generous in granting temporary asylum to thousands of refugees from neighboring countries. You have won the gratitude of all who share a humanitarian concern for these unfortunate victims of war and repression.
It was with sorrow, therefore, that we learned of your Government's decision to relocate the Salvadorean refugees presently in Colomoncagua and San Antonio and the Guatemalan refugees at El Tesoro.
As you know, the refugees themselves and virtually all the humanitarian agencies providing assistance to the refugees are firmly opposed to the relocation. They have put forth compelling reasons why such a move is neither in their interest nor that of the Honduran people.
The principal arguments in favor of the move appear to be largely legalistic ones: the general UNHCR principle that refugee settlements not be near the border of the country they have fled; and the sovereign right of the receiving country to determine where to allow such refugees to live.
No one can deny the right of the Government of Honduras to order the removal of the refugees to another site. It is for this reason that I write to ask your government to reconsider this decision.
The United States Catholic Conference shares completely the sentiments expressed by the Honduran Episcopal Conference in their communique of January 20 of this year. With them, we believe that "these problems must always be considered and solved from a humanitarian point of view, taking into account that we are dealing with human beings who are our brothers and sisters. Other considerations, no matter how valid, must in the final analysis be weighed in their relation to the full dimensions of the human person.
The Salvadorean and Guatemalan refugees have already had to leave their countries of origin, but they have been able to rebuild their lives after a fashion in the present centers, thanks to the tenacious work of various agencies. Now they are being required to move once again. We think they cannot be asked to make this new sacrifice without the most serious reasons.
It is our judgment that such an important decision should be the result of a true dialogue with the interested parties themselves. If, as a result of such, the move is to be made, there must be full guarantees of security, reasonable freedom of movement, and clear possibilities for their improved economic and social development."
A reconsideration by your Government of the decision to relocate the refugees would be warmly received as a great humanitarian gesture by the international community and certainly by the refugees themselves.
Monsignor Daniel F. Hoye
General Secretary, NCCB/USCC