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El Salvador is struggling to cope with the needs of thousands of children and young people forcibly returned to the country from the Unites States and Mexico. The Trump administration’s decision to suspend Temporary Protected Status for Salvadorans will only exacerbate the problem as many more are deported to a country that cannot properly care for them.

In 2001, two consecutive earthquakes rocked El Salvador. This prompted the United States government to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Salvadorans who had fled the destruction caused by both earthquakes, allowing them to live and work legally in the country.

Many Salvadorans benefitted from TPS who had fled El Salvador for other reasons, such as suffering violence and persecution by armed gangs. Since 2001 they have made the United States their home, having children who are US citizens but who now could be ripped away from their parents by the actions of the Trump administration.

Monday’s decision to terminate TPS for Salvadorans is yet another example of the harsh treatment President Trump is subjecting migrants to in a bid to reduce immigration. The White House has given Salvadorans currently protected by TPS until September 2019 to acquire another legal status which allows them to reside in the US or they will be deported – including many children who will be forced to leave.

Many of those people will be pushed underground, running the risk of being deported later on. They will lose their jobs and health benefits, becoming reliant on informal work to support themselves.

El Salvador will struggle to reintegrate those returned

While El Salvador has slowly rebuilt since the 2001 earthquakes, the country is still riven with economic and social insecurity. Poverty, poor economic opportunities and widespread gang violence have forced thousands of people to flee in recent years – including children trying to escape forced recruitment by gang members. The country simply cannot deal with all of these challenges.

The risk of this social instability worsening only increases if El Salvador is forced to reintegrate 200,000 people forcibly removed from their homes in the US. The Salvadoran government’s lack of reintegration and protection programmes for those deported to the country leaves those sent back vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.

Families in El Salvador will also be hit financially when remittances sent by family members living in the US dry up. Salvadorans living in the States currently send over $4.5 billion back to loved ones in El Salvador every year – over 17 percent of the country’s GDP and its largest single source of income.

Making children’s wellbeing a top priority

The Destination Unknown campaign is extremely concerned about how the removal of TPS for Salvadoran citizens in the United States will affect children and young people who are deported and whose families are affected.

The potential deportation of such a large amount of people back to El Salvador will put additional pressure on a national system already unable to provide adequate care for the children and young people being forcibly returned from the US and Mexico.

This inability to support returning children is already evident through the Destination Unknown campaign member Terre des Hommes’ need to provide psychosocial assistance for children and young people forcibly returned to El Salvador – something the Salvadoran government is not currently prioritising.

It is imperative that the best interests of the child are one of the central considerations taken into account when any decision affecting children is taken – whether that be on migration or any other field.

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