SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: May 15, 2023

Attack Types: Travel Restrictions

Institution(s):National Autonomous University of Honduras | University of Costa Rica

Region & Country:Americas | Nicaragua

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On May 15, 2023, Nicaraguan immigration agents denied passage to a group of 35 students and professors from the Autonomous University of Honduras (UAH) to travel through the country on their way to the University of Costa Rica (UCR). Every year, UCR invites students from Panama and Honduras to promote socio-cultural exchange.

The students arrived at the Honduras-Nicaragua border at 6:00 a.m. in a bus. Border officials denied the group passage but did not explain why. One officer reportedly told the group that only the bus and the driver could enter, but they would need to wait on the other side of the border. Officers also told the group that they would need to be escorted to the Costa Rican border. While waiting, the group assured the authorities that they had informed the Honduran embassy in Managua, the Ministry of the Interior in Nicaragua, and Costa Rican authorities of their journey. Ultimately, however, the group was forced to turn around and return home at 6:20 p.m., 12 hours after they had arrived.

Honduras and Nicaragua are signatories of the Central America-4 Free Mobility Agreement, a treaty which permits citizens of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua free movement within the countries without restrictions.

UCR’s rector, Gustavo Gutiérrez Espeleta, denounced the refusal, calling the refusal an attack on academic freedom and a violation of democratic systems and human rights.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about restrictions on students’ and scholars’ travel. State authorities have a responsibility to protect academic freedom and not to interfere with academic activity, so long as it is undertaken peacefully and responsibly. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, travel restrictions intended to impede academic activity have a chilling effect on academic freedom and undermine democratic society generally.