I just returned from Germany where I made a tour of more than a week in different places, as a guest of Misereor, a Church organization to help in the development of the third world countries. The theme of this year’s Campaign was “The Youth of El Salvador.” The people met in parishes, schools, civil society groups, etc., asked me many questions, but the most frequent ones were about gangs and the caravans.
From the caravans of migrants they wanted to know why they leave their countries of origin, what they are looking for, who is behind and with what intentions, etc.
There is no doubt that the phenomenon of the caravans has caused a great impact on public opinion. Something unprecedented and unexpected happened: the migrants stopped being invisible. In El Salvador, the meeting point was the Plaza del Divino Salvador. There, they were welcomed by Caritas staff who guide and offer them help.
Along the way to the border with Guatemala, they tried to accompany them, and an attempt was made to create a support network along with its route to the border with the United States. Let’s see it in more details:
• Since the middle of October, many organized groups of people from the north of the Central American region, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, have traveled north in the hope of reaching Mexico and the United States. In Mexico, there are approximately 7,000-9,000 people in these groups, currently spread between Veracruz and Baja California.
Among them are people fleeing persecution and violence and others with international protection needs. Many are vulnerable and in need of humanitarian assistance, including women and around 2,300 children. In the caravans, there are newborns, pregnant women, the elderly and people with disabilities. Many are exhausted, and others suffer from foot injuries. The groups which everyone calls “caravans”, are divided into three main groups and several small groups.
• The “first caravan” arrived in Mexico on October 18th of last year and is currently in movement, dispersed in groups of between 500 and 2,000 people heading north, Tijuana, through the states of Jalisco, Nayarit, and Sinaloa. They are formed mainly by people from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. The federal authorities of Mexico estimate an approximate of 4,600 people in this group, in which there are many young families and more than 400 children.
• The “second caravan” according to the National Human Rights Commission of Mexico (CNDH), is made up of people from three countries that form the northern triangle, but the majority are from Honduras. It is estimated that there are approximately 1,050 people of which about 95% are young men. This group, fleeing violence, and poverty have arrived in Mexico City.
• The “third caravan” is estimated at approximately 1,500 people, mainly young men, mostly from El Salvador. The “third caravan” began to arrive in Mexico City, where they joined the “second caravan”.
Having said the above, I would like to add this data: • 3,331 people from the “caravans” have requested refuge in Mexico. - Another 105 people have been pre-registered to apply for refuge in Mexico City.
• 533 refuge seekers have abandoned their refugee application, and have decided to return to their country of origin.
• As I indicated at the beginning of my talk, the caravans of Salvadorans begin their walk and in the place of concentration (Plaza Divino Salvador del Mundo) staff from Cáritas of El Salvador provides information about the refuge system in Mexico to people with a need of international protection.
• The National Office of Caritas of El Salvador, through the Network of Parishes and Dioceses, Hostels and pastoral agents in coordination with local, governmental, non-governmental actors and the UNHCR, promote implementation at the national level and coordinate actions for strengthening of the network of parishes and international networks that will provide attention to the following populations:
• a) Refuge-seeking, refugee and stateless persons.
•b) People who have been deported and cannot return to their communities of origin due to a risk of persecution. According to data from the General Directorate of Migration and Immigration, in the year of 2018, a total of 26,499 Salvadorans were deported (of these, 15,300 were deported from the United States, 11,101 from Mexico and 98 from other countries).
In the months of October and November of 2018, four caravans took place where more than 2700 Salvadorans left the country searching for better opportunities, and others searching for international protection forced by gangs to leave their homes under death threats and extortion.
There is no doubt that some will be deported and will not be able to return to their places of origin; for these people, we will continue activating the programs that are held at Cáritas, that is, the emergency evacuation and the reference to specific program.
Searching for lasting solutions for people. We must not forget that people who are in the United States under the temporary protection status, which expires in September 2019, will be in need of receiving comprehensive attention from Cáritas under the following scenarios:
• a) Those people whom due to the uprooting they have from the country have no place to be; for those cases, the answer provided by Cáritas will be the “Open House” to provide temporary shelter.
• b) In the case of those who cannot return to their community because their lives and the lives of their families are in danger, they may refer to one of the programs with which Cáritas works or initiate an evacuation process and even an internal relocation in the communities that are part of the Parishes Network.
• c) People internally displaced and at high risk of displacement. Actions will be coordinated with the network of parishes that will serve as points of identification and reference of internally displaced persons, guaranteeing the confidentiality of the process and the program.
(It will continue in the next edition