World Refugee Day -- the internal refugees of El Salvador

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On June 20, World Refugee Day, El Salvador must deal with a reality of hundreds of thousands of internal refugees displaced by violence.   The following article was originally published by the human rights organization Cristosal.

The IDMC Releases 2018 Global Report on Internal Displacement

Despite its relatively tiny size, El Salvador ranked tenth globally with 296,000 new displacements caused by conflict in 2017.

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), a global leader in analyzing displacement data, has released the 2018 Global Report on Internal Displacement (GRID). El Salvador ranked tenth worldwide for new displacements caused by conflict, with 296,000. This number represents 65% of all new displacements caused by conflict in the Americas. This is an increase from the IDMC's 2016 estimate of new displacements caused by conflict in El Salvador, which was 222,000. "We saw an increase in our own data as well," says Rina Montti, Coordinator of Cristosal's Monitoring Unit in El Salvador.  Cristosal's Monitoring Unit registered 417 cases of forced displacement in 2016, compared with 638 in 2017— a 53% increase.

According to the GRID's spotlight on the Northern Triangle of Central America (NTCA–El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras), the causes of displacement in the region include high rates of homicide, femicide, extrajudicial executions, forced disappearances, rape, threats, and extortion. These findings are similar to those reflected in Cristosal's 2017 Report on Forced Displacement in El Salvador, which found that threats, homicide, and extortion were the top three causes of displacement in the cases registered by Cristosal and the Quetzalcoatl Foundation.

The IDMC applauds efforts from NTCA governments to address the issue, including the Supreme Court of El Salvador's acceptance of "petitions filed in November referring to internal displacement associated with criminal violence." The petitions in question are the amparos which Cristosal's legal team filed on behalf of victims of forced displacement. Ultimately, the IDMC urges policymakers to "harness this momentum" in finding solutions to effectively address forced displacement.

Although the IDMC notes an increase in the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras in 2017, they acknowledge that "information about internal displacement [in the region] is largely anecdotal, making NTCA’s IDPs all but invisible" (p 40). This is consistent with Cristosal Executive Director Noah Bullock's observations in the 2016 GRID, where he stated: “Efforts to document internal displacement and assist victims are frustrated by the secrecy in which people flee and their reluctance to report crimes to the authorities. Internally displaced persons feel forced to restrict their own basic freedoms and rights to avoid detection by criminal groups or the authorities.”

Despite these challenges to collecting data, the information available on El Salvador was sufficient to rank it as the country with the most new displacements caused by conflict in the Americas in 2017. 

The 5 countries in the Americas with the most new displacements in 2017. Blue representes displacement caused by disasters; orange represents displacement caused by conflict.
Figure from IDMC

See the full 2018 GRID here.

See the 2018 GRID section on the Americas, including a spotlight on the NTCA, here.

Learn more about Cristosal's 2018 Report on Forced Displacement here.