U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1998 - El Salvador

  At the end of the year, El Salvador hosted about 100 refugees recognized by UNHCR, nearly all Nicaraguans. Only one new refugee, from Iran, was recognized during 1997. UNHCR supported permanent status for Nicaraguan refugees who, according to the agency, are in fact integrated in their areas of residence in El Salvador. In preparation for its forthcoming phase-out from El Salvador, UNHCR worked to strengthen the local refugee protection network and assisted a governmental team drafting national refugee legislation. The 1992 UN-brokered agreement that ended years of internal conflict in El Salvador remained in force during 1997, although politically motivated crime and terrorism continued. Mid-term elections in March were widely regarded as free and fair, even if the outcome surprised many observers (former leftist guerrillas, known as the FMLN, scored unprecedented victories in the municipal and legislative races, including the election of a former Marxist rebel as mayor of the capital, San Salvador). The return and reintegration of Salvadorans to their homeland, particularly from the United States, remained a focus in 1997, along with a late-year legislative deal that significantly increased the chances for many Salvadorans to remain in the United States. According to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, El Salvador received 3,743 Salvadoran deportees from the United States during U.S. fiscal year 1997, which ended on September 30. This figure represents 3 percent of all deportations from the United States. El Salvador's National Civilian Police Border Division reported that 4,315 Salvadorans returned in 1997. Of these, 3,742 were from the United States, 441 from Mexico, 60 from Canada, 51 from Guatemala, and 4 from other countries. Despite concern that the repatriations could threaten the stability of El Salvador's still-fragile postwar society, the Salvadoran government said it was "working along with the private sector, the Salvadoran community, and NGOs on a national strategy that will provide the returnees with the essential services to help their reintegration to our society." Components of the strategy include financial assistance, temporary shelter, family reintegration, agricultural training, and efforts to help Salvadoran nationals with limited knowledge of the Spanish language. Throughout 1997, U.S. lawmakers considered various efforts to soften some provisions of the major U.S. immigration law enacted in 1996. Those efforts resulted in the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act, which is expected to benefit some 200,000 Salvadorans in the United States, along with their immediate families.

This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.