HomeNewsBriefFleeing Gang Violence, El Salvador Migrants Head South
BRIEF

Fleeing Gang Violence, El Salvador Migrants Head South

BARRIO 18 / 24 JUN 2016 BY DAVID GAGNE EN

A new report says an increasing number of Central Americans are fleeing south to escape gang violence and seeking asylum in Costa Rica, a dynamic which may be linked to the stepped-up deportations of migrants by the United States. 

The number of aslyum seekers entering Costa Rica in 2016 is expected to outpace the 2,203 refugee applications the country received in 2015, the highest figure in years, reported the Tico Times. Refugee applications have been rising since 2013, when authorities received fewer than 1,000. (See the Tico Times' chart below)

 

According to Costa Rica's Immigration Director, Gladys Jiménez, some 77 percent of the nearly 10,000 refugees currently in Costa Rica are Colombian. Cubans make up the next largest nationality (8 percent), followed by Nicaraguans (6 percent), Venezuelans (3 percent) and Salvadorans (2 percent). 

But the proportion of refugees from El Salvador has risen sharply. So far in 2016, Salvadorans make up 46 percent of all refugee applicants, Jiménez said. 

Authorities attribute this increase to weak state institutions that are unable to protect Salvadorans from the pervasive gang violence they face in their home country. 

"These are people who aren’t being protected," said Carmen Muñoz, Costa Rica's vice minister of the Interior. "The state doesn’t provide them protection from mareros, or other kinds of organized crime," she said, refering to gang members as "mareros."

El Salvador recorded a homicide rate of over 100 per 100,000 in 2015, and this year has seen further increases followed by a sharp drop in the murder tally. 

InSight Crime Analysis

The vast majority of Central America's migrants travel to Mexico or the United States in the hopes of escaping gang violence, finding better work, and reconnecting with family members who beat the same path before them. 

Nonetheless, the Tico Times report finds a growing number of Central American migrants, especially Salvadorans, are electing to head south rather than make the treacherous journey north.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Displacement

This may well be linked to the increased deportations of Central Americans by the administration of US President Barack Obama, as well as the ramped-up security along Mexico's southern border. Obama has also called on parents not to send their children to the United States, warning of the dangers that they will face along the way and the border agents who will turn them back if they make it that far.

"Do not send your children to the borders,” Obama said on ABC News in January 2014. "If they do make it, they'll get sent back. More importantly, they may not make it."

With lower levels of violence and better job prospects, Costa Rica is a natural destination for Central American migrants dissuaded by the perils of traveling north. For some of these same reasons, however, Costa Rica makes an attractive landing spot for Central American gang members absconding from security pressure back home. 

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

BARRIO 18 / 1 OCT 2020

This is the second part of a three-part series on San Salvador’s Historic Center, the heart of the country’s informal…

EL SALVADOR / 20 JUL 2022

The US government has added dozens of individuals to a list of allegedly corrupt actors in Central America.

EL SALVADOR / 28 APR 2022

The notorious MS13 street gang boasts a diverse criminal portfolio – including prostitution. Through violence, abuse and intimidation, the gang…

About InSight Crime

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Extensive Coverage of our Chronicles of a Cartel Bodyguard

23 SEP 2022

Our recent investigation, A Cartel Bodyguard in Mexico’s 'Hot Land', has received extensive media coverage.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime, American University Host Illegal Fishing Panel

19 SEP 2022

InSight Crime and the Center for Latin American & Latino Studies (CLALS) at American University discussed the findings of a joint investigation on IUU fishing at a September 9 conference.

THE ORGANIZATION

Impact on the Media Landscape

9 SEP 2022

InSight Crime’s first investigation on the Dominican Republic made an immediate impact on the Dominican media landscape, with major news outlets republishing and reprinting our findings, including in …

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Sharpens Its Skills

2 SEP 2022

Last week, the InSight Crime team gathered for our annual retreat in Colombia, where we discussed our vision and strategy for the next 12 months.  During the week, we also learned how to…

THE ORGANIZATION

Colombia’s Fragile Path to Peace Begins to Take Shape

26 AUG 2022

InSight Crime is charting the progress of President Gustavo Petro’s agenda as he looks to revolutionize Colombia’s security policy, opening dialogue with guerrillas, reforming the military and police, and…