SAN SALVADOR – Women will “always” be those hardest hit by the irregular migration affecting Central America, especially the countries of the Northern Triangle, Spanish nun Carmela Gibaja said in an interview with EFE.
Gibaja, who belongs to the Sisters of the Guardian Angel, has closely followed the issue of irregular migration in the Northern Triangle – that is, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras – via her work with Red Rama, a religious organization in Central America and the Caribbean that works against people trafficking.
Given her experience, Gibaja said that the immigration “crisis” affecting the region is “stronger” now than at “other times,” because “many women, children and teenagers are involved.”
She said that as part of the migrant caravan phenomenon in El Salvador and Honduras in late 2018 these women and children “are those who are more prone to fall into the criminal networks, above all into the people trafficking networks.”
People trafficking – considered to be the second-most-profitable crime in the world – consists of the illegal trade in human beings with aims that can vary from sexual exploitation and reproductive slavery to forced labor or organ removal.
“People trafficking is increasing in the region and in these migrant caravans the women, children and teens are very vulnerable to falling into the hands of unscrupulous people,” she said.
Gibaja emphasized that woman and girls are “always” the most vulnerable due to their gender “because we know that there is a macho culture in the region where women are considered to be inferior to men, weak and are seen as objects of pleasure and abuse.”
Regarding the stance of US President Donald Trump on the thousands of migrants trying to reach his country, who he has called “criminals,” Gibaja said that the US leader “has a limited and closed view of the problem of migration.”
“Migrants are not going to steal from the United States, they’re not a danger, they’re men and women who are doing the work that Americans don’t want to do ... Female migrants (go) to that country to raise the Americans’ children,” she said.
She expressed the opinion that Trump “doesn’t have a complete view of reality, he doesn’t know what it is to have limited access to healthcare, to education and to dignified work.”
In addition, she said that if Trump were to definitively cancel US economic aid to the Northern Triangle, the migration of women “would increase considerably” because “part of the money that is sent to these countries goes to creating jobs.”
“Many of the women who abandon their countries of origin are the heads of families and in reducing the job opportunities, they will leave seeking a way to earn a living,” she said.
In late March, Trump announced economic aid cutbacks because – he said – the Northern Triangle nations are doing “nothing” to prevent the formation of migrant caravans that set out intending to reach the US.
Central Americans migrate for a number of reasons, including looking for better working conditions, family reunification and to escape the violence that is slowly eating away at their countries.
Given this scenario, Gibaja urged the governments in Central America to create public policies to protect vulnerable people and create conditions whereby they can get access to education, work and healthcare.
She also asked the US government to promote “more welcoming” politics and to avoid xenophobia.