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Report: At Least 138 People Sent from US to El Salvador Were Killed

2020-2-5

At least 138 people deported to El Salvador from the United States in recent years were later killed, a rights group claims in a new report.

Human Rights Watch released the report on Wednesday. It comes as the U.S. government makes it harder for Central Americans to seek refuge in the United States.

FILE - In this Oct. 10, 2019, file photo police guard next to a graffiti wall with the name of a gang as part of a routine patrol in Lourdes, La Libertad, El Salvador. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo, File)
FILE - In this Oct. 10, 2019, file photo police guard next to a graffiti wall with the name of a gang as part of a routine patrol in Lourdes, La Libertad, El Salvador. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo, File)

The report said that most of the deaths took place less than a year after the deportees returned to El Salvador, and some within days. The group also confirmed at least 70 cases of sexual assault or other attacks following their arrival in the country.

The violence shows the risk faced by people who have been forced to return to their home country, noted Alison Leal Parker, the group’s U.S. managing director. She said that U.S. law requires deportation of non-citizens who were tried and found guilty of a number of crimes. Trump administration policies also discourage those seeking asylum, she added.

“Our concern is that many of these people are facing a death sentence,” Leal Parker said.

Between 2014 and 2018, the U.S. government sent about 111,000 Salvadorans back to their homeland. El Salvador has long been struggling with the problem of gang violence.

The United Nations reported last year that killings in El Salvador have decreased from a high of more than 6,000 in 2015. But the country still has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. A majority of those killings are linked to gangs.

The number of Salvadorans seeking asylum in the United States grew by nearly 1,000 percent between 2012 and 2017. Many of those individuals reported being threatened by gangs. Only about 18 percent of asylum seekers are actually offered asylum.

Human Rights Watch confirmed the 138 deaths noted in the report through official records and social media, and by contacting family members. The group said it believes the actual number is much higher. The number of attacks is likely low also because of under-reporting in the country of 6.5 million people.

César Ríos is executive director of the Salvadoran Migration Institute, a non-governmental organization. He said no one in El Salvador follows the deaths of deportees, but that he found the information believable. He said it shows that many people are returning to communities controlled by gangs.

Rios added, “We can say that deporting people to these areas is very difficult and dangerous.”

President Donald Trump has made immigration enforcement a centerpiece of his administration. It has a policy of forcing asylum-seekers from Central America to wait in Mexico while their requests are considered or be sent back to their homelands if their claim is rejected.

I’m Jonathan Evans.

The Associated Press reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

deport – v. to force to leave a country

discourage – v. to be negative about something

gang – n. a group of people often involved in crime

homicide – n. a murder