El Salvador + 11 more

El Salvador: Central America & Mexico Migration Crisis - Emergency Appeal No. MDR43008 - Country Operational Strategy


El Salvador Funding requirement: 1 million CHF
IFRC Secretariat Funding requirement: 18 million CHF
Federation-wide funding requirement: 28 million CHF


March 2022: according to a report by the United States Customs and Border Protection Agency, 8,387 Salvadorans were prevented from entering the country irregularly, which is an increase from the 7,146 in February 2021

2022: UNHCR estimates that in 2022 the number of deportations will reach approximately 50,000, of which 10,000 will have protection needs (20 percent of the total number of deportees).

May 2022: IOM reports 6,471 returnees for the period January to May 2022, an increase of 254% over the previous year.

29 July 2022: 7 National Societies decide to scale up their response and together with IFRC launch an Emergency Appeal to support the National Societies of Central America and Mexico for 18 million CHF to assist 210,000 people for 12 months. 1 million CHF allocated from the IFRC’s Disaster Response Emergency Fund (DREF) to kick off the operation.


Despite official information on the reduction in the number and rate of homicides registered since 2019 in El Salvador, the persistence of crime and violence continue to be a threat to social development and economic growth in the country and constitute the main causes for which the population continues to be victims of situations of forced internal displacement, as well as catalysts for the migration of people from El Salvador to other countries in search of international protection. The deep socioeconomic and gender inequality, the impact of COVID-19 and the effects of natural hazards and disasters combined with the population's vulnerability conditions contribute to the deterioration of the protection context.

In this context, it is clear and necessary to address the situation of internally displaced persons who are seeking a safe place within the country and migrants who risk traveling the migratory route to reach new destinations. Many of them are subsequently deported and forced to return (ICRC).

In 2022, 6,471 Salvadoran migrant returnees from the United States and Mexico were reported, an increase of 254% compared to the previous year. In addition, according to a report by the United States Customs and Border Protection Agency, 8,387 Salvadorans were prevented from entering the country irregularly in March 2022, an increase from the 7,146 in February 2021. According to official records, in 2022, there was a 209% increase in deportations from the United States and Mexico compared to the same period in 2021.

According to the Humanitarian Response Plan for El Salvador, forced displacement has a multidimensional negative effect on the exercise of rights. At the community level, the lack of state presence and the social and territorial control of gangs hinder displaced persons access to rights and services. To mitigate risks, people affected by violence often limit their movements, aggravating their situation and affecting their sources of income. Once they flee their community, displaced persons leave behind their property, belongings, education, and employment opportunities. In addition, displacement entails the loss of social, community and family networks, while generating new challenges related to the establishment of the family in a new place.

Severity of humanitarian conditions

Upon arrival, returning migrants, in El Salvador, suffer discrimination that limits their reintegration into their communities of origin. The stigma that follows them is usually associated with crime. Other returnees have physical and mental health problems or have been victims of sexual abuse in transit. Some returnees fled and were forcibly displaced and feel threatened to return to their place of origin.

Some of the factors of departure were family reunification, uprooting, adverse weather conditions that have contributed to the loss of jobs and the closure of businesses in the communities of origin, which makes it difficult to generate livelihoods.

  1. Impact on accessibility to basic services such as food, health, education, electricity, among others.

Migrants and/or displaced persons face many shortages and challenges along the migration route. In El Salvador, involuntary returnees generally do not have the resources to access the material goods necessary to reintegrate into their communities of origin (food, clothing, health, housing), or in some cases due to the generalized violence and security issues they have no possibility of returning home.

Many people generally leave the country due to violence perpetuated by illegal groups (gangs), and when they return, they require protection and an immediate response to their urgent needs. Most of them are in urgent need of cash to pay for food, medicine and clothing and shelter housing in case of individuals or families who are unable to return to their place of origin.

The few governmental organizations do not have the resources to provide the humanitarian aid required for migrants in the short and medium term. The migrant and displaced population specially those who are victims of violence require humanitarian assistance and protection to alleviate their suffering; to protect their lives and guarantee respect for their rights, without any form of discrimination based on age, race, colour, sex, language, religion, birth, political ideology, or other status.

  1. Impact on physical and mental well-being

Today, migration is a global phenomenon and should be recognized as a social determinant of health. Mobility not only has an impact on people's physical vulnerability, but also on their mental and social well-being.

Conditions related to the migration process can increase vulnerability to disease. The COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to increased risk of infection and death for migrants and internally displaced persons. People on the move may have few tools to protect themselves, such as social distancing, hand hygiene, and self-isolation, which are often not possible.

While this clearly has an impact on the well-being of migrants and internally displaced persons, it has a negative impact on global health objectives, such as HIV prevention and containment of tuberculosis, among others. High morbidity and mortality rates among migrants, especially among those in irregular or forced situations, are also a key health concern that is underestimated and deserves attention.

People on the move also experience a series of reactions and feelings that affect their mental health, so mental health and psychosocial support services that facilitate the management of such impacts are essential to cope with them. According to data from the Protection and Information System of the Psychosocial Care Unit for Victims of Violence (UAPV) of the Salvadoran Red Cross, the main impacts of containment and mitigation measures on the mental health of the population served have been:

• In girls and boys from 4 to 8 years old: behavioural problems, stress, anxiety, eating disorders are the ones that are mostly reflected in children served.

• In girls and boys from 8 to 12 years old: Increase of defiant or aggressive behaviours, anger, irritability, complaints of boredom, sleep disturbances, depression, worry, and anxiety due to fear of being harmed by violence.

• In adolescents (12 to 17 years old): Increased defiant and aggressive behaviours, thoughts of hopelessness, recurrent fear, and worry.

• In adults and families: There is the prevalence of generalized anxiety and symptoms of depression, mainly related to the acts of violence perpetrated mainly by armed groups. There is a fear of receiving threats and extortion by gangs that exercise territorial control in the area. There are reports of anguish due to the presence of police and army troops in the last month of March. Similarly, cases of displacement due to police harassment have been reported, who link them to gangs in their areas of residence, and at the same time, there has been an increase in the intention to migrate as a result of the security situation in the country.

Victims of violence in conditions of displacement identify that from the moment they suffer a threat of displacement until the moment they must return and relocate to a new community, anxiety always remains constant due to the fear of being persecuted and found.

  1. Impact on their livelihoods

The "Study of the labour market focused on the identification of possibilities for self-employment and labour linkage of internally displaced population and population in need of international protection", carried out by the company CID Gallup and UNHCR in El Salvador, shows that one fifth of the population is unemployed and although 17% expect to be employed in administrative positions, only 5% of the people have technical education.

Of those who are employed, almost half are working informally and 73% of people want to start a business but have little economic solvency. The study also shows that approximately four out of every five people consider that obtaining a job in El Salvador is "difficult (very or somewhat)". This reality is especially acute for women (64% - very difficult) and for the population over 40 years of age (66% "very difficult"). In turn, people with disabilities suffer from the hard task of finding employment, as almost half (47%) consider this to be a "very or somewhat difficult" task. Forty-two percent of those surveyed managed to find employment before the second month after arriving at their current residence. Men take less time to find a job - at least before the end of the first month of unemployment - than women. It is mostly women who work in the informal sector.

Migrants need to secure their livelihoods to meet their basic needs and improve their living conditions. In that sense, the multipurpose may contribute to start their economic activities in sectors with market potential beyond the period of assistance.

  1. Protection, Gender and Inclusion

Migrants who have been affected by violence, exploitation or abuse require assistance and protection to address their immediate needs and their risk factors. At each stage of the migration route many migrants face discrimination, lack of access to fundamental human rights, xenophobia, violence, gender inequality, threats of exploitation by human traffickers, migrant smugglers, or unscrupulous officials.,

They also have to face health and other physical threats related to travel conditions, such as unsafe means of transportation, environmental exposure, and infectious diseases.

Upon returning home, migrants may acquire new vulnerabilities caused, for example, by language barriers, integration difficulties and xenophobia. Irregular migrants are particularly reluctant to avail themselves of social services for fear of being detected, even when they are entitled to them.

As Salvadoran Red Cross, the priority is to work to reduce the stigmatization of the migrant population and displaced victims of violence by generating, promoting outreach campaigns in social networks for the prevention of gender-based violence, self-care days with returned migrant women victims of violence, adaptation and socialization of the guide for the creation of safe referral mechanisms, reproduction of the safe referral guide for people in migrant and refugee situations; and reproduction of key messages with relevant information for people.

  1. Security

The biggest security risk in El Salvador is opportunistic and violent crime Migrant travellers are unlikely to be targeted by gangs but may face the risk of incidental exposure if they unknowingly travel into a gang-held neighbourhoods. Migrants and supporting staff to the Honduran border region should consider travelling or seeking advice with local guides due to the presence of landmines and unexploded ordnance close to the border. The country is vulnerable to tropical storms and hurricanes during the Atlantic Basin's hurricane season (JuneNovember), which can cause severe travel disruption. Infrastructure deficiencies can complicate internal travel and communications.