From La Prensa Gráfica: 418 Children Forcibly Displaced in El Salvador in the Last 3 Years

This is a translation of an article by Ezequiel Barrera in La Prensa Gráfica.

Organization like Cristosal ask the IACHR to intervene, and request that the countries of the Northern Triangle of Central America improve the level of attention given to victims.

Eduardo told the gang members in his community that he didn’t want to join the gang. He told them various times on the bus that he took to school, which gang members frequently used to recruit students.

After Eduardo’s refusal, he was threatened by some of the gang members that studied at the same school as him. They told him that he had to join the gang or they were going to kill him.

When the school’s director learned that Eduardo had been threatened, he asked him to change schools to avoid a problem.

Sara, Eduardo’s mother, was angered by the director’s approach, because, instead of talking to and punishing the students in the gang responsible for threatening Eduardo, he asked Eduardo to change schools.

According to what she told Cristosal, an organization that attends to cases of forced displacement in El Salvador, Sara decided to take Eduardo out of the school while she started looking for another place for them to live.

The organization has a register of cases, at least the ones they are aware of. The Salvadoran Government does not have any official data on these types of cases; they don’t even recognize the phenomenon, preferring to refer to it with the friendlier term “internal migration.”

In March of this year, the Government published a report on internal migration from 2006 - 2016. It assured that it used a scientific method to detect, through a survey, 466 cases of family migration in that decade. 80% of these families, according to the document, included adolescents ages 12 to 19 and young adults ages 19 to 29.

In the detailed register Cristosal keeps, it is striking to note that in just the last three years, 418 children and adolescents have been forcibly displaced by violence. Just like what happened to Eduardo.

In these cases, 279 were children 0 to 11 years old, and 139 were between the ages of 12 and 17.

The five main reasons why these children were displaced, according to Cristosal’s data, were direct threats to themselves or a family member, the murder of a family member, attempted homicide, extortion, and injury to themselves or a family member. To a lesser extent, rape and sexual violence, and the disappearance of a family member were also listed as reasons for displacement.

Cristosal also stated that although 94% of the forced displacements of minors were provoked by gangs,  6% were provoked by agents of the National Civil Police. The displacements provoked by police usually occur after they harass an adolescent.

According to the testimonies collected by Cristosal, police will arbitrarily detain young people when they are going to and from school, they will interrogate, beat, and accuse them of being a gang member and of not giving them any information on gangs. This despite the fact that the adolescent insists that they are not   a gang member, and that they don’t have information on any illicit activities in their communities.

After being forcibly displaced, 55% of families told Cristosal that they approached the Police or the office of the Attorney General of El Salvador to lodge a complaint. The rest said that, because they feared represion from gangs or did not have a lot of trust in the authorities, they preferred to move quietly.

This phenomenon is not exclusive to El Salvador. The organizations Pop N’oj and Casa Alianza, of Guatemala and Honduras, respectively, also co-wrote a report with Cristosal requesting that the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) intervene before the states of the Northern Triangle of Central America, and policies that address child and adolescent victims of displacement, as well as prevent more cases.

In the case of El Salvador, Cristosal requested that the IACHR intervene and call for the Legislative Assembly to discuss and approve the proposed “Special Law for the Prevention and Protection of Victims of Forced Displacement” in a timely manner.

A Case in Honduras

A Honduran boy told Casa Alianza, while the organization was registering cases of forced displacement for the report that was presented to the IACHR, that the lives of his family members “aren’t worth anything” in the community where they live. The boy added that he thought this because of the gang members in their community who forced their way into their house instead of requesting a “rent.”

The boy said: “My mom told us that, if we returned from the store, we had to lock up the house. If not, the gang members that lived near us would rob us. We lived like we were in jail. So I told my mom that it would be better for us to leave, because our lives weren’t worth anything in that place, and they could harm us if they forced their way into the house.”

Paulina P