Mauricio Viloria is 48 years old. He was born in Colombia, but more than 14 years ago he and his wife arrived in Argentina seeking refuge from the political persecution they suffered in their country. He has a degree in Social Sciences and Social Work. He is human rights defender, has worked for several years advising people with international protection needsly for the recognition of the rights to memory, truth and justice of these populations in our country and in the region.
Currently, Mauritius works in the Committee against Torture, which depends on the Commission for Memory, of the province of Buenos Aires. He also works in the Memory and Human Rights space that works where the Navy School of Mechanics (ESMA) used to be.
—How did you get to Argentina?
—I left Colombia in November 2008. After a journey by land, we arrived in Argentina in January 2009 and when we arrived at the border we presented the refugee request for reasons of political persecution, for the work we did in human rights, on displacement internal forced. It was a complex scenario. Since 2000 we had been in a process of seeking peace, but in 2008 the Government opted for a military exit, which led to much persecution of social movements and escalated the conflict. We could not return for ten years until the peace agreement was signed and the situation changed, at least partially. Now we live another part of history, in which we can return.
—What was it like having to change countries and cultures?
—When you leave your place of origin looking for protection, it is not something you plan, we did not have that life project. FIt was a sudden and painful situation. There is uprooting when leaving your affections, your projects. Although in the new place you feel safe because there is no imminent risk, you do not have what gave meaning to your existence. We felt welcomed, but we were still refugees because we could not choose to return.
—What helped you in this context to start over?
— Here we find harmony with the projects we had in human rights, which helped us to think about Colombia from Argentina. Also to learn about the region, to know that Other countries also work against human rights violations. Finding bonds of solidarity made it possible for us to face uprooting and even build affection.
—And you were also able to work for human rights, both in Colombia and Argentina…
—We managed to find in the experiences of memory processes in Argentina a harmony with what we lived. We find interest in listening and sharing those experiences. When the search for peace was signed in 2016, we began working with organizations such as Memoria Abierta and others that work with refugees who joined the challenge of counting human rights violations in Colombia for those who were outside the country. In that solidarity the bonds were nurtureds, but also the search for solutions for those who still need protection in other countries.
—What challenges does the refugee crisis pose today, which is growing every year?
—A great challenge is that international protection is maintained within a broad framework. I am concerned about the ideologization in the answers and that some problems are more visible than others. For example, today there is a lot of talk about Ukraine, which is a very complex situation, of course, but not so much about Sudan, where there are people who lose their lives trying to escape. Armed conflicts escalate and it is perverse that those who invest in war also invest in humanitarian solutions, it is ironic. Peaceful solutions should be advanced and each person can choose where to live.
Mauricio is one of the participants of the radio program produced by UNHCR (the United Nations agency for refugees) that will be broadcast this Tuesday, June 20 from 7:30 p.m. as part of World Refugee Day. The program (you can listen here) will be led by journalists Joaquín Sánchez Mariño and Leticia Martínez, will be attended by actor Osvaldo Laport (UNHCR ambassador), and several refugees who will tell their life stories: Venezuelan artists Steffania Uttaro and Azula Ballroom, Snyre Jean Charles ( Haiti), Lía Valeri (Venezuela) and Okba Aziza (Syria).
In addition, I recommend the latest edition of the OXÍGENO newsletter, which we wrote with Juan Carr and in which we reflect on the situation of refugees.