Salvadoran State Must Recognize Forced Displacement Crisis

The State does not guarantee the protection of victims of forced displacement.

In their presentation before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, representatives of the Civil Society Committee on Forced Displacement requested that the IACHR express its concern to the Salvadoran government regarding forced displacement. They also asked that the government be urged to recognize the crisis.

"One of the big problems is that the state doesn’t want to recognize that there is a problem of forced displacement. It’s a serious problem. If they don’t recognize this issue, there will be no policies for prevention or victim assistance," said a representative from the Institute of Human Rights at the University of Central America José Simeón Cañas (IDHUCA).

Without recognition of the problem, it becomes difficult to officially validate the experiences of Salvadorans who are seeking refuge in other countries due to violence.

Without protection

The gang members who control a colony in Soyapango demand that a mother give them her daughter. The girl is just entering puberty, and the enraged mother, who has known her tormentors since they were children, faces them. Now the whole family is threatened.

"There is no other option, you can’t do anything but leave," said the IDHUCA lawyer, like a judge considering a sentence.

When Lea Montes, Director of the Jesuit Service in Nicaragua, is asked if the families they serve receive support from the Salvadoran government, she answers with another question: "How can I answer that, when, according to what they tell us, the authority in the community is not the government, it's not the public institutions, it's the gangs?"

In Montes’s opinion, the situation in El Salvador transcends the government’s abilities. Salvadorans are not fleeing for comfort or looking for jobs, they are leaving because they do not want to be killed.

"If the Salvadoran government does not recognize the phenomenon of forced displacement by violence as a problem, the UNHCR cannot act," added Jaime Rivas, researcher at the Jesuit Network with Migrants of El Salvador.

Honduras is the only government in the region that has recognized that the level of violence is causing forced displacement; therefore, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has greater freedom to act.

Cáritas de El Salvador is UNHCR’s partner agency in the country. Its director, Antonio Baños, acknowledged that the agency is not prepared to respond if the situation accelerates: "The UNHCR depends on the will of governments. It has to receive an express request from the Government."


Translated from Oliva, X. G. (October 31, 2017). Estado salvadoreño debe reconocer crisis por desplazamientos forzados. Retrieved from

Hannah Rose Nelson