TEGUCIGALPA – Forced displacement caused by violence and organized crime is a problem that continues to be “invisible” for many in Central America’s Northern Triangle, but it requires more attention and more effective protective mechanisms, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees representative Jose Samaniego said.
Forced displacement is “a rather invisible phenomenon, the victims in some way continue to be made invisible by the displacement itself,” said Samaniego in an interview with EFE in Tegucigalpa.
He added that the majority of displacements occur due to the violence and lack of security that prevail in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala – the countries comprising the Northern Triangle – and he called on those governments to pay closer attention to this “extremely complex problem.”
Samaniego last week was in Tegucigalpa to participate in a press conference with the Human Rights Commissioner in Honduras, Roberto Herrera, at which he said that there were 110,000 refugees and asylum seekers from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala in 2015, five times more than the annual total from four years before.
Most of those people are requesting asylum in the United States, Canada and Mexico, but the UNHCR has detected a growing number of requests in Costa Rica and Panama.
Samaniego said that the figures must be taken into account to determine “the magnitude of the problem” and he urged that a census of the victims of forced displacement in the region quickly be undertaken.
In addition, he said that the countries in question must recognize that “there is a problem” and develop “special mechanisms” to deal with it.
Samaniego said that the challenge in dealing with the matter starts with the fact that the local judicial systems have no rule for defining internal forced displacement or establishing a framework for addressing it.
Therefore, the UNHCR official emphasized the need to create a national framework allowing authorities to learn about and understand the real dimensions of the problem with an eye toward designing public policies to handle it.
“We know that (the problem) is very serious. The real dimension will become more visible insofar as we have better knowledge through studies and monitoring mechanisms. It’s a very serious phenomenon,” he said.
Central America, especially the Northern Triangle, is one of the world’s most violent areas despite the fact that no conventional war is under way there.