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Press Release

US Attempts to Blockade Southern Border Breaks Domestic and International Law

Today’s proposals would penalise Central American survivors of violence and abuse in the refugee and migrant caravan; Represent an ineffective policy that addresses crisis symptoms, not root causes.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) responds to today’s proposals from the US Administration, which aim to obstruct and further limit the rights of asylum-seekers among caravans. This exacerbates the symptoms, instead of addressing the root causes of this crisis: a protracted and dangerous situation in the Northern Triangle of Central America (Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador). The region’s situation has been compounded upon for years, resulting in a trans-generational experience of persistent violence, conflict, and natural disasters since the 1930s.

The IRC stands firmly against this proposal, and remains concerned by the conditions facing asylum-seekers, particularly women and children who are most susceptible to trafficking, rape, and other violence along the route to safety.  

Jenn Piatt, Senior Director of Refugee Resettlement & Asylum Policy and Advocacy, said:

Once Again, the Administration is demonstrating that it does not have an adequate understanding of the crisis in the Northern Triangle countries. The conditions in these countries are forcing women, children, and families to flee for safety. Limiting access to asylum does nothing to resolve the crisis there. Likewise, stationing thousands of troops at the US border will not stabilise the region. The Administration today is missing the mark - these proposals are ineffective and will cost the American taxpayer an untold sum.

“It is impossible to apply for asylum without physically arriving to the US border or interior. The US helped create international refugee law after the tragedies of World War II, for the very purpose of ensuring that refugees would never again be turned back to harm. Under the current and proposed policies, the US risks violating non-refoulement, the most fundamental principle of refugee law.

“US law also clearly grants asylum seekers the right to apply for asylum. The IRC calls on the Administration to refocus its efforts on violence prevention – and working with Northern Triangle governments and civil society actors to build their ability to protect their communities, respond to their needs, and eventually make life liveable in the Northern Triangle. In the meantime, pursuing policies that inflict trauma on families and deport them to countries where they face harm will only add to wide-scale instability, and insecurity.”

Violence in El Salvador and The Northern Triangle

In 2016, El Salvador and Honduras were two of the top 10 most dangerous countries outside of armed conflict, with the highest murder rates in the world. In 2017, more than nine women and girls were killed in El Salvador every single week with 469 total femicides, and an overall average of 10.8 homicides per day – a figure that does not account for disappearances, who are presumed to be dead. These figures are significant in a country of only around 6 million.

The IRC is working with local government and civil society actors to fortify and improve support to the most vulnerable individuals and families, as well as spreading information on how to access these valuable services. Additionally, for those in extreme cases of forced displacement and violence, IRC is helping them to restabilise their lives with emergency cash assistance. We have seen firsthand the critical situation that results in people fleeing north.

Meghan Lopez, Head of Mission in El Salvador, said –

“Combining this year’s homicide numbers with missing person numbers, 2018 is on track with the levels of violence seen in 2015 – the most deadly year in Salvadoran history since the civil war. The rate of gender-based violence has also increased, with 67 of every 100 women having experienced violence in their life.

“Fleeing is a dire choice for any family. They are forced to choose between facing certain death or a desperate journey north – protected by other families in the caravan. Yet we know that individuals will not stop fleeing until the root causes of violence are addressed, and military troops or scare-tactics will not dissuade them, because currently there is no place scarier than their homes.”

Violence in the Northern Triangle is not a new phenomenon; It is a trans-generational experience permeating every aspect of people’s lives. In El Salvador, where the IRC currently works, the current gang crisis was preceded by earthquakes and a civil war, and prior to that there were repressive military dictatorships and ethnic genocide.

Learn about and support the IRC’s work in El Salvador and in the United States here.

About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 29 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue-uk.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.