Regional Forced Internal Displacement Monitoring System Presents Annual Report on Forced Displacement in the NTCA; Vice President of El Salvador in Attendance

Written by Zach Goodwin

Rina Montti, Regional Coordinator of Cristosal’s monitoring unit, presented the results of an annual analysis of forced displacement in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala on June 11 at the Hotel Barceló in San Salvador in front of a packed crowd that included Vice President of El Salvador Félix Ulloa. In a speech preceding the presentation of the results, Ulloa said that the new administration of President Nayib Bukele is committed to recognizing and combating forced displacement as an issue of national importance.

Left to right: EDUCO Country Director Alicia Ávila, Cristosal Chief Program Officer Celia Medrano, Cristosal Executive Director Noah Bullock, Vice President of El Salvador Felix Ulloa, President of the Cristosal Board of Directors Scott Pentzer

Left to right: EDUCO Country Director Alicia Ávila, Cristosal Chief Program Officer Celia Medrano, Cristosal Executive Director Noah Bullock, Vice President of El Salvador Felix Ulloa, President of the Cristosal Board of Directors Scott Pentzer

“We are going to confront forced migration head on,” Ulloa said. “We are not going to sweep it under the rug.”

Forced internal displacement is the coerced movement of a person or people away from their home or home region, and, to date, is only recognized in the Northern Triangle of Central America (NTCA) by Honduras. Guatemala and El Salvador have yet to officially recognize the phenomenon. Nevertheless, the report found that in all three countries there is a lack of policies or programs to protect victims of violence and displacement. Ulloa´s statements indicated that the Bukele administration is considering taking such action.

“Public security and migration policies should be tackled as a nationwide problem,” Ulloa said. “This has been a structural problem and we will tackle this situation at its root, together with President Bukele.”

“Forced displacement is one of the phenomena generating the most pain among the Salvadoran population,” Ulloa added.

The report, titled “Signs of a Crisis: Forced Internal Displacement as a Result of Violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, 2018”  and produced collaboratively by member organizations and institutions of the Regional Forced Internal Displacement Monitoring System in the Northern Triangle of Central America, registered 1,724 cases of forced displacement in El Salvador and 222 cases of forced displacement in Honduras over the course of 2018. The report also identifies several populations particularly at risk of forced displacement — including human rights and land defenders, indigenous populations, the LGBTQ+ population, low-income communities, women, and youth. The study names threats and violence perpetrated by gangs and organized crime as the primary causes of forced displacement, though it also acknowledges the impact of violence perpetrated by the military or the National Civil Police as a cause of displacement.

“The state’s lack of public services is considered one of the drivers of forced displacement in Central American countries,” Montti said during the presentation.

“The systemic and historical abandonment of victims is also another factor that contributes to forced displacement,” Montti added.

Executive Director of Cristosal Noah Bullock also spoke, initiating the event with a speech that honored both the researchers for their hard work and the victims whom Cristosal supports.

“We monitor forced displacement in order to make the victims visible,” Bullock said.

“This is not meant to be a show of statistics nor is it meant to debate whether or not forced displacement exists,” Bullock added. “It is more a snapshot of victims’ realities.”

The second half of the event featured a panel of experts on human rights and forced displacement from across Central America. The panel included EDUCO El Salvador Country Director Alicia Ávila; Plan International National Evaluator of the General Office for Resilience and Humanitarian Action Cristina Pérez; International Organization for Migration Chief of Project for El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras Jorge Peraza; National Monitoring Coordinator for Cristosal Guatemala Ixkik Zapil; and Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre representative Michell Kissenkoetter.

Celia Medrano, Cristosal’s Chief Program Officer

Celia Medrano, Cristosal’s Chief Program Officer

Cristosal’s Chief Program Officer Celia Medrano moderated the panel. In an interview with El Diario Vasco, Medrano said that failing to recognize forced displacement violates the human rights of victims of violence. Medrano expressed her hope that the Bukele administration moves swiftly to recognize forced displacement and provide victims with the protection they need.

“We hope that the new government takes this step that the previous one did not take,” Medrano said.

The report will launch June 25 in San Pedro Sula, Hon.; June 27 in Tegucigalpa, Hon.; and July 2 in Guatemala City, Gua.

MORE: Read a summary of the report in Spanish, or view interactive data on displacement in El Salvador and Honduras.

Paulina P