Destination Unknown in Central America
Giving deported young people new courage to face life
In 2016 alone, over 182,000 underage refugees from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala were registered on their way north. They are in search of protection from violence. But along the dangerous migration route they are once again experiencing violence and exploitation by traffickers and criminal gangs. In addition, the Trump government's immigration policy is leading to increased deportation of undocumented migrants. In 2017, about 5600 underage migrants were deported from the USA until September.
The social reintegration of these young people, who have been traumatised several times, is a major challenge. In many cases, they fled their home country in order to escape the threats of criminal youth gangs. On the risky journey north, they experienced exploitation by traffickers or fell into the clutches of organised crime. Finally, they had to cope with imprisonment and deportation by American or Mexican migration officials.
... destroyed dreams
These young people return broken, frustrated and hopeless, with no prospects. To make matters worse, the young returnees are often branded as criminals and losers in their home communities. They feel like strangers in their old homeland. All this is not a good starting point to start a new life. Without systematic reintegration programmes, there is a high risk that they will fall off the beaten track. There is a high risk that they will join criminal youth gangs or make a living from drug dealing.
Targeted support for new courage to face life
This is why terre des hommes Switzerland and terre des hommes Germany are supporting a pilot project for psychosocial support of young migrants in El Salvador. The partner organisation ACISAM fills a crucial gap in the state social programmes by providing young migrants with psychological and social support. A participatory survey is used to ask young returnees about their challenges. With community discussion groups, the project helps to break the negative stigma. The results will form the basis for the development of more comprehensive approaches to the reintegration of young migrants. ACISAM is in dialogue with competent authorities. It advises those responsible on how they can improve the care services for these young people. Psychological and social support in particular is crucial in overcoming the multiple traumas. Only targeted and integrated approaches to social reintegration can prevent these young people from falling into the vicious circle of violence as a survival strategy.