Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Forced displacement of families -- the refugee crisis

A report issued earlier this year offers an important view into the problem of families who must flee their homes as a result of gang and other violence in El Salvador.   The report on the situation of forced displacement through generalized violence in El Salvador (available only in Spanish) was prepared by the Roundtable of Civil Society against Forced Displacement, made up of several civil society and church groups who have tried to provide humanitarian assistance to these families.

The report notes that although international agencies had tallied some 289,000 internally displaced persons in 2014, the Salvadoran government was in denial of the problem and offered little if any support to such families:

The phenomenon of internal displacement is an effect of a situation of generalized violence in El Salvador. Hundreds of Salvadoran families flee their homes to protect their lives and physical integrity, many of whom end up seeking international protection outside the country's borders for lack of attention or for inadequate measures from Salvadoran state agencies. 
The Salvadoran government does not officially recognize that there is a problem of internal displacement forced by widespread violence. It does not have programs or institutions providing effective care and effective protection to the needs of these victims who are mostly nuclear families. The phenomenon is invisible or minimized and not taken into consideration in the design of public policies and the legal framework. There is currently no official record of how many persons internally displaced by violence are in the country. Due mainly to the denial of the existence of the phenomenon, the specific cases of people turning for help to public authorities are not registered.
The effects on families who are forced to become internal refugees are immense:
Civil and political rights [of displaced persons] are severely affected, as well as their economic, social and cultural rights.  Fleeing and hiding people leave their jobs or livelihoods, children, adolescents and the young drop out, and elderly people suspend their medical follow-ups.   In many of the cases that are attended by the member organizations of the civil society roundtable against forced displacement, families leave the homes they had acquired with much effort or which are mortgaged in favor of financial institutions. Even when they leave, they must continue paying with no possibility of selling.  Because of fear, no neighboring person dares to buy an abandoned house.
As the report notes, the absence of any effective state support and protection for these families, despite the government's obligation to provide it, often prompts the families to decide not to remain in El Salvador but to seek sanctuary in other countries including the US.    

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