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El Salvador’s Gang Violence is Forcing Thousands to Flee


By: Walter Ewing

In the event that there was any doubt, women and children from Central America’s Northern Triangle—El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras—are fleeing the same horrific conditions that were driving them out of their countries in large numbers two years ago. That is why apprehensions of Northern Triangle refugees have gone up this year, once again drawing attention to the fact that Central Americans are not going to stop risking their lives to get here when their lives are so risky back home.

Just how risky is driven home by two reports about the dire situation in El Salvador that were released in September 2016 by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The first report focused on the gang violence in the country; specifically, the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and the Barrio 18 (M-18).

The second IRB report dealt with women as victims of violence in El Salvador. Within the neighborhoods that gangs control, women are considered gang property. They are forced to be the “girlfriends” of gang members—and saying “no” to this arrangement is punishable by death.

Judging from these statistics, to call El Salvador a “war zone” is no exaggeration. And, as with any war zone, El Salvador—and Honduras, and Guatemala—produces a stream of refugees searching for safe haven. One can only hope that the U.S. government will stop acting as if they are unauthorized immigrants and start treating them like the asylum-seekers they truly are.

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