On 9 January, the National Assembly of El Salvador passed legislation that will see internally displaced Salvadorans receive greater protection, aid and offers of greater solutions for their predicaments. While the legislation still needs the signature of El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele to be officially declared as a new law, it is widely considered that this will happen in the coming weeks.
This new law will provide much needed relief for the estimated 71,500 Salvadorans who have been forcefully displaced from their homes between 2006 and 2016 due to gang violence and natural disasters. Despite these figures, unofficial records estimate the true number to be in the hundreds of thousands.
As reported by CNN Español, the legislation was passed by a resounding 82 votes out of a possible 84, demonstrating El Salvador’s widespread support to address the issue of internal displacement. The UNHCR worked in tandem with the Salvadoran National Assembly to help ensure the legislation “aligned with the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement,” and would abide by other international standards. On 10 January, a UNHCR spokesperson, Liz Throssell, held a press conference in Geneva and declared that the law would “open 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.”
While it remains to be seen how this law will be put into effect by the government of El Salvador, it is undeniably a positive direction for the future of the Central American country. Organized crime has plagued Salvadoran civilians for a number of years and has created insufferable living conditions for many, forcing them to relocate either inside their own country or abroad. Until now there had been no legislative policy to acknowledge internally displaced persons (IDPs) within El Salvador and their suffering.
The government of El Salvador must ensure all institutions abide by this legislation. There must be quick and effective measures that will see adequate relief and safe protection provided to those displaced within the nation.
This will be a difficult task due to the amount of criminal violence afflicting Salvadorans, and the widespread reach that organized crime has within the country. El Salvador has been marred by violence for many years, however, with the recent election of President Bukele, the situation has increased significantly. While there is still a great amount of criminal activity, there was a significant decrease in the homicide rate in 2019, down 28.9 percent from 2018 according to Univision. This, coupled with the newly passed law, shall hopefully provide greater relief to those who have been internally displaced.
Following on from the passing of this law, similar legislation is now being discussed in the neighbouring countries of Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala. This comes from the growing belief that there is an unequivocal need to address the issue of internal displacement. With this new law being introduced in El Salvador all indications seem to point towards a more prosperous future for those who are suffering in the Central American nation.