What is the cause of migration in El Salvador and Honduras?

Inequality, unemployment and violence are considered as the possible causes of this migration phenomenon that El Salvador and Honduras are experiencing

Inequality, unemployment, and violence are considered as the possible causes of this migration phenomenon that El Salvador and Honduras are experiencing

What is the cause of migration in El Salvador and Honduras?

Nearly 128 Hondurans and more than 200 Salvadorans emigrate daily to the United States, according to the US Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs, Carl Rish.

Leer en español: ¿Cuál es la causa de la migración en El Salvador y Honduras?

It is difficult to know an exact figure because the route is often made in hiding. The Migration Policy Institute of Mexico estimates that while in 2011 there were 130,000 migrants, in 2016 this figure rose to 300,000, mostly from the "Northern Triangle."

For example, the report of migrants from Latin America and the Caribbean of the United Nations reveals that El Salvador has one of the highest emigration rates in the region. It is estimated that 24 out of every 100 Salvadorans reside abroad. Likewise, Honduras became the country with the highest emigration rate in Latin America in 2017, says the report.

Internal Forced Displacement

Although many displacements are directed abroad, according to the United Nations forced displacements to occur within Honduras and El Salvador. For example, for the Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR), in Honduras, more than 1,400 people had to move from their homes in 2017. These reported being fleeing from crimes such as threats, extortion and in the case of young people, recruitment forced. This report shows that such violence is generated by organized crime, such as drug trafficking or gangs.

El Salvador has a high number of displaced persons, who entered the list of the ten countries in the world with the highest number of displaced persons due to violence. This is in accordance with the Global Report on Internal Displacement (GRID) 2018, which states that during 2017, 296 thousand people had to leave their homes. In what it is analyzed in the GRID, it is found that violence related to gangs and drugs has spread over that area of Central America (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador), but there is little information to detail, so that governments have kept aloof from the problem, ignore it or refuse to address it.

Likewise, the number of people who emigrated from the "Northern Triangle" in 2017 increased by 50%, according to The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the majority going to the United States, Mexico, and Belize.

Other causes of emigration from El Salvador and Honduras

It is presumed that one of the reasons for this massive mobilization of people is the situation of poverty in both countries. For example, in 2017 the Central Bank of Honduras established that about 66% of the population lives in poverty. This despite the fact that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew at a rate of 4.1% during the same year. However, it remains a very unequal country, in which 90% of the wealth is in the hands of 10% of the population. Likewise, the Ministry of Labor of Honduras maintains that the lack of job opportunities is the cause of this phenomenon.

However, a study conducted by Jonathan Hiskey, professor of political science at Vanderbilt University, points out that "being a victim of a crime is a great motivation for people to undergo a migration process, even knowing the dangers that may arise during the trip and the intricate immigration policies of the United States." This would explain why the current policies to deter migration in the United States have not been effective since they are geared towards people who emigrate for economic reasons. On the contrary, people who flee violence because they have good reasons for not to return to their countries of origin are not considered.

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According to Hiskey, "one of the most powerful predictors of migration is whether the person has been the victim of a crime in the last 12 months, and an even more powerful predictor is whether that person has been the victim of multiple crimes."

People from El Salvador interviewed for this study, 35% had been victims of a victimizing situation and 44% had been victims several times. In the case of Honduras, 39% had been a victim once and 56% more than one victim. Some of the most recurrent crimes are extortion and the forced recruitment of children and youth IGNORE INTO gangs.

"Once people have lived this for several years, they get to the point where they say: 'I do not care what's in front of me, I have to leave, I have to take my children out,'" notes Hiskey. In these cases, the migrants have been victims of so many crimes, that they do not care to face the risks and migratory laws, in order to escape from the initial situation.

Although Guatemala has a high crime rate, it does not seem to be a determining factor in the migration decision. The aforementioned study concludes that both the distribution and the type of crime are different in Guatemala, and this could be the difference between the migratory process in comparison with its neighbors in the "Northern Triangle."


LatinAmerican Post | Mariela Ibarra Piedrahita

Translated from "¿Cuál es la causa de la migración en El Salvador y Honduras?"

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