UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, welcomes El Salvador’s passage of legislation to protect, aid and offer durable solutions to people internally displaced in the Central American nation due to violence from organized crime and criminal gangs, as well as those who may be at risk of displacement.
The legislation, passed by a resounding majority in El Salvador’s National Assembly on January 9, opens the door for tens of thousands of victims of forced displacement in the country to gain access to life-saving humanitarian assistance, and to have their basic rights restored, including effective access to justice. The law further provides for the establishment, for the first time, of a comprehensive national system that brings together a wide variety of State institutions to collaborate in responding to and preventing forced displacement.
Once signed by President Nayib Bukele, the law can have a lasting positive impact on the lives of the 71,500 Salvadorans estimated to have been forcibly displaced between 2006 and 2016 within their country’s borders, as well as tens of thousands more who are at risk of being forced to flee their homes.
The text of the legislation on internal displacement, drafted with technical support from UNHCR, aligns with the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement and with other international standards that describe the rights of internally displaced persons, including the right to request and receive humanitarian assistance, protection of family unity, an adequate standard of living and durable solutions. It also establishes mechanisms to allow those affected by internal displacement to protect and reclaim property they may have been forced to abandon in their flight.
The law reflects the growing momentum In Central America and beyond to recognize and respond to the phenomenon of internal displacement. In Honduras, where an estimated 247,000 people have been displaced by violence within their own country, the National Congress is considering legislation similar to the law passed in El Salvador. Mexico also recognizes the serious impact of internal displacement and has expressed its commitment to pass legislation on the issue at the federal level.
UNHCR reiterates its readiness to continue offering technical and operational assistance to the governments of Central America and Mexico to help them mitigate the causes and consequences of forced displacement, in line with their commitments as part of a regional alliance to provide comprehensive protection and solutions to the issue called the Comprehensive Regional Protection and Solutions Framework, known by its Spanish-language acronym, MIRPS.
In October, the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, established a High-level Panel on Internal Displacement to increase global attention and advance solutions for this issue which affects more than 40 million people worldwide due to conflict and violence.