Over 67,000 displaced Hondurans who tried to escape violence and poverty have been sent back from US and Mexico so far this year. Many become displaced again in Honduras as they cannot return to their homes. "These families fled violence and hopelessness. They should not meet tear gas and a return ticket. Decision makers must show humanity, comply with international humanitarian principles and stop using this crisis for domestic political gains," said Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), currently visiting San Pedro Sula in Honduras.
"It is incredible that there is hardly any funding for humanitarian programs for education and livelihoods for youth in Honduras. Here there are only incentives for fleeing to save your life and get some hope," he added.
The number of repatriated Hondurans so far this year is record high with an increase of 25 percent from last year. In recent years, approximately 100,000 forcibly displaced Hondurans are youth under the age of 28. According to a recent assessment by NRC, more than twenty percent of young boys and girls deported back to Honduras had experienced violence before they left and are now too afraid to return home.
"Deportation is a death sentence. My son cannot go back to Tegucigalpa where they will kill him. The gang 'La Pandilla 18' has already threatened him," said Javier, a 57- year old father, who was deported with his son in late October.
Human rights violations, including homicides, femicides, forced child recruitment, extortion, sexual violence, torture, forced disappearances and kidnappings are widespread in Honduras. Between January and September 2018, over 2,700 people were killed in this small nation - the equivalent of 10 persons per day.
"This is not a country at war, yet the violence is comparable to a war zone. The toll that this violence takes on the city I am in now, can be seen and it can be felt. The young people and the mothers in the caravan at the US - Mexico border is a symptom of this crisis. The same crimes they fled from is waiting for them when they are sent back," said Egeland.
A gross distortion in income distribution is fuelling the brutal violence and the migration flows. Honduras is among the countries with the worst income inequality and extreme poverty is widespread. Egeland supports the idea of a "Marshall Plan" for Central America, but warns that there are no short-term investment solutions for ending the extreme violence:
"We need to address the root causes of the problem. People need to see opportunities at home and they must get the protection they deserve. We cannot continue to be surprised that families choose to leave when their children's lives are in danger. Today families do not have many alternatives: they can either hide their youth or help them flee again," Egeland said. "The Government of Honduras must ensure that people forced to flee their homes are safe, assisted and treated with dignity."
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Jan Egeland is available for comments and interviews in San Pedro Sula (7-8 December) and from Washington DC (9-11 December).
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· 67,913 persons have been deported back to Honduras so far this year.
· In particular, deportations from Mexico have increased a 74% in comparison to 2017.
· 2,711 homicides have been reported, resulting in an average of 10 homicides per day in 2018. 90% of the victims were men.
· In 2017, 3,791 homicides placed Honduras as having the fourth highest homicide rate in the world.
· This year 35 massacres have been reported (homicides of 3 or more people per event) were 115 people were killed.
· The murder rate in Honduras is 42 per 100,000 (2017). By comparison, the murder rate in Peru is 7.2 per 100,000, and in the US, it is 5 per 100,000.
Information about NRC in Honduras: https://www.nrc.no/countries/south -america/north-triangle/
Case story: https://www.nrc.no/perspectives/2018/i-think-he-felt-something-was -going-to-happen-to-him/