“We lived like we were in prison… and we couldn’t live like that.”

Honduran girl

Civil society organizations from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala expressed to representatives of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) their concern about the increase in the forced displacement of children and adolescents due to generalized violence and the indifference and absence of comprehensive and effective mechanisms for the care and protection of this especially vulnerable group by the States of these three countries.

Casa Alianza in Honduras, the Pop No’j Association of Guatemala, and Cristosal presented a report in which they collect information on internally displaced children. They highlighted that in many cases, internal forced displacement is the first step for irregular international migration. They have also underlined that there is a growing mention in repatriated children and adolescents from these three countries that violence has been the leading cause of their irregular migration, mainly to the United States and the growth of requests for this group’s refuge in Mexico.

In addition to the State’s fragile governance, they identified gangs and organized crime, and State’s institutions, which are supposed to ensure the population’s safety, as the main promoters of violence. Furthermore, racism, discrimination, and male chauvinism remain as causes of violence. Particularly in Honduras and Guatemala, the number of forcibly displaced persons due to political violence and different repression forms is growing.

When children are forced to return to their places of origin before facing displacement, for example, when they have migrated and are deported, they return to the same conditions they fled and even in a situation of greater vulnerability.

The speaker organizations asked the IACHR to act vis-à-vis the States of the region to assume their responsibility in the care, protection, and reparation of the rights of children and adolescents who faced forced displacement due to generalized violence. This responsibility includes the search for durable solutions to displacement.

They asked the States to recognize Internal Displacement fully, systematize the information, and develop effective care and assistance public policies from a human rights-based approach to achieve regional coordination mechanisms. In the specific case of El Salvador, they urge the IACHR to follow up on the necessary and urgent approval of the proposal for a “Special Law for the prevention and protection of victims of violence in conditions of forced displacement.” This proposal is under consideration by the Salvadoran Legislative Assembly to fulfill the mandate of this element of the State given in Sentence 411 of the Supreme Court of Justice.

These proposals were made public at a working meeting held on October 3, within the framework of the 169th session of the IACHR, held at the University of Colorado in Boulder, United States.