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Refugees from Central America a humanitarian crisis on Canada’s doorstep, says aid agency

Doctors Without Borders says the Liberal government must do something about the humanitarian crisis on its doorstep by making asylum easier for refugees fleeing the northern triangle of Central America. 

The aid group says an estimated 500,000 people from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala flee into Mexico every year from the three violence-plagued countries, where rates of murder, kidnapping and sexual violence are comparable to those in full-blown war zones.

However, people escaping the region have long been painted as economic migrants by countries of refuge, including Canada, says the group, widely known by its French name, Médecins Sans Frontières, or MSF.

A report released by MSF on Thursday draws on comprehensive medical data gathered by MSF teams on the ground in Mexico. Nearly 40 per cent of interviewed migrants from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala treated in MSF clinics in Mexico cited “direct attacks or threats to themselves or their families, extortion, or gang-forced recruitment as the main reasons for fleeing their countries.”

Of the refugees and migrants surveyed, nearly half had a relative who had been killed due to violence in the previous two years.

Canada must urgently rethink its approach to immigration from the region, including formal resettlement, said Jason Cone, executive director of MSF USA, who is calling the policies of refuge countries such as Canada and the United States as “wholly inefficient to the gravity of the situation.”

“While the dynamics are different, [the situation in Central America] is not dissimilar from the kind of forced migration I have seen working for this organization in the Middle East, or in places like South Sudan,” says Cone.

In 2016, 87 of the 136 Hondurans who applied were granted refugee protection in Canada, a 62 per cent acceptance rate; 21 of the 51 Guatemalans who applied were accepted, a 34 per cent acceptance rate; and 152 of the 244 applicants from El Salvador were accepted, a 71 per cent acceptance rate, according to statistics provided by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.

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SOURCE: Lisa Laventure
CBC News

BCNN1 • May 13, 2017

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