The decision of the United States government to withdraw from the UN agreement on migration is a serious blow to those wishing to cross its borders. Though it pains them to accept the fact, 50% of those that come from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras do so to escape violence, while 43% come as a result of poverty. Crossing through Mexico, half a million people are subject to unspeakable abuses each year.
Marcos Ortiz F.
“Our decisions on immigration policy will be taken by Americans and Americans only.” These are the terms used by the United States to justify its decision to turn its back on the agreement that was to see the light of day in 2018 and whose aim it was to deliver agreements on the humanitarian management of migrants and refugees.
This measure of Donald Trump’s sounds paradoxical when examining the origins of the plan, which began to take shape in September 2016 in New York, fittingly, during the Declaration for Refugees and Migrants which was signed in the Big Apple unanimously by 193 of the member states, including Barack Obama’s government.
But who are the hundreds of thousands of human beings that on a daily basis try to reach this country which proclaims itself the “American dream?” They are Guatemalans, Hondurans and Salvadorans – citizens of the Northern Triangle of Central America (TNCA) better known as the triangle of death – by far one of the most dangerous places on the planet and whose misery has been addressed by a recent report by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) entitled “Forced to flee the northern triangle of Central America: a forgotten humanitarian crisis.”
According to figures estimated by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) 500 thousand people enter Mexico each year from these three countries and endure a process that includes “violent displacement, persecution, sexual violence and forced repatriation very similar to what can be found in the most acute armed conflicts in the world. ”
In fact, according to data collected by MSF, this is a reality that practically all migrants and refugees who try to make the journey endure. 92.2% of them suffered an act of violence in their country of origin or whilst crossing from the south to the north of Mexico, a situation previously reported by Amnesty International and confirmed by The Prisma (see Crisis migratoria: la piedra en el zapato de Europa y Norteamérica (‘Migration crisis: the thorn in the side of Europe and North America’).
Threats and extortion
And the fact of the matter is that this wave of immigrants are willing to endure this hardship because in their countries of origin the situation is no better.
39.2% of them indicate that the main cause for fleeing their countries of origin is that they themselves or their families have been the victims of direct attacks, threats, extortion and even forced participation in criminal gangs.
An even larger number, 43.5%, had already lost a relative as a result of violence over the last two years, a figure that rises to 56.2% in the case of Salvadorans.
Once en route, the situation is the same or worse, with 68.3% falling victim to violence on their way to the United States. In the case of women, the above is compounded by sexual abuse which affects one in three of them. 60% of this group had been raped, while the rest suffered humiliations such as forced nudity.
And those responsible? The victims point the finger at gang members and criminal organizations and, worse, Mexican law enforcement officers responsible for their protection.
Reasons for their flight
Though they are considered economic migrants both in Mexico and the United States, this is far from the truth.
More than 150 thousand people have been murdered in the Northern Triangle over the last 10 years, with El Salvador out in front with a rate of 103 murders for every 100 thousand of its inhabitants.
The numbers are unparalleled in the rest of the world. In fact, it is estimated that there are more civilian casualties in this part of the world than in any other region, including those affected by armed conflicts. El Salvador is only surpassed by Syria for the rate of violent deaths per year.
Bertrand Rossier, coordinator of MSF in Mexico, sums it up as follows: “The relentless violence and emotional suffering endured by these people is similar to what people living in conflict zones experience”.
But these shocking figures do not seem to be softening hearts in the north. It is estimated that in 2016 Mexico granted asylum to less than 4,000 citizens from these three countries, but during the same period it expelled 141,900. The figure is no better in the United States, where only 9,401 requests for asylum have been granted out of a total of 98,923.
“I am from San Pedro Sula. I had a garage. The gangs wanted me to pay protection, but I refused and then they wanted to kill me,” a 30-year-old Honduran told MSF. He went north after being shot three times in the head and left in a coma for two months.
‘First, they threatened me: they told me if I didn’t pay, they’d take payment with my blood and the blood of my children. In my country, killing is routine. It’s as casual as crushing an insect. They’d have had no compunction. They give you a warning and then they kill you; they don’t play around.” A 36-year-old Salvadoran woman recounted her story: “My husband was a policeman and he worked with a gang. The other gangs threatened me several times, to take revenge on my husband for being a spy. I survived that but later they started threatening my children. I thought about leaving. My sister lives in the United States.”
The woman, who had made an application for asylum to the United States in 2011, never received a reply. “I stayed and tried to survive. My husband was murdered in 2015. Then they came and raped my son and threw me out of my house. I had no choice. The little money I had was given to the guide who helped us cross the border. I heard stories of rape and kidnap happening along the way, but I placed my trust in God.”
(Translated by Nigel Conibear – DipTrans IoLET MCIL – firstname.lastname@example.org) – Photos: Pixabay