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NEW YORK, NY, June 20, 2017 – On World Refugee Day 2017, the Center for Migration Studies (CMS) and Cristosal (El Salvador) released a report entitled, Point of No Return: The Fear and Criminalization of Central American Refugees. The report is available at http://cmsny.org/publications/cms-cristosal-report.

The report details ten cases from the Northern Triangle of Central America—four from El Salvador and three each from Guatemala and from Honduras—which chronicle the journeys of refugees in search of protection, how the system did not protect them, and what they face upon return to their home countries. The report concludes that the United States and Mexico are returning Central American asylum-seekers to danger, and, as a result, are violating the international principle of non-refoulement. Overall, 18 cases were interviewed and analyzed for the study.

Jeanne Rikkers, Director of the Center for Research and Learning at Cristosal, which interviewed the refugees, stated that those returned to their home countries remain living in fear and are restricted from attending school or obtaining employment. The majority are in hiding, restricted in their movements and liberty. Some have had family members killed in their place.

“The denial of due process to these refugees and their return by US and Mexican authorities have forced them into hiding, where they are unable to live normal lives,” Rikkers said. “They remain in danger and could still become victims of organized crime. It amounts to refoulement, which is a violation of international law.”

Donald Kerwin, CMS’s executive director, stated that family networks, both in Central America and in the United States and Mexico, have replaced governments as a source of protection for many refugees.

“The sad truth is that family networks have filled the protection void that sending, transit and receiving countries have created,” Kerwin said. “Tragically, family members are not always in a position to protect their loved ones and they themselves can become targets of organized crime in the absence of targeted family members.”

Kevin Appleby, CMS’s Senior Director of International Migration Policy, called upon the governments, who recently concluded a conference in Miami to address security and economic issues in the region, to replace deterrence with protection policies.

“For the past several years, the US and Mexico have done everything possible to deter refugees from fleeing violence in the Northern Triangle, to no avail and to the detriment of their rights,” Appleby said. All the nations in the region, including the US, must cooperate to ensure that these vulnerable families and children are protected, until the root causes of their flight can be adequately addressed.” The report includes several policy recommendations for the governments to consider.

The Center for Migration Studies (CMS) is a New York-based educational institute devoted to the study of international migration, to the promotion of understanding between immigrants and receiving communities, and to public policies that safeguard the dignity and rights of migrants, refugees and newcomers. For more information, please visit www.cmsny.org.