Creating prospects for children and young people at risk of displacement
Title: (Re-)integration of children and youth at risk of displacement in Central America (ALTERNATIVAS)
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Countries: Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador
Lead executing agency: SG-SICA (General Secretariat of the Central American Integration System)
Overall term: 2017 to 2020
Every year, at least 40,000 unaccompanied children and adolescents from Central America’s Northern Triangle (Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador) leave their countries to head north. They are fleeing from youth gang violence, domestic, sexual and gender-based violence and/or precarious circumstances.
These three countries have some of highest murder rates in the world (2015, per 100,000 residents: El Salvador 103, Honduras 57, Guatemala 30, source: Fundación de Estudios para la Aplicación del Derecho (FESPAD), El Salvador). A lack of training opportunities and high youth unemployment are causing young people to make the dangerous trip to Mexico or the United States, usually with the aid of human traffickers, although they have little chance of being able to enter the country legally. Frequently, they underestimate the risks involved, such as violence, blackmail, rape and involvement in criminal activities. After they are forced to return to their own countries, their situation is often even more difficult – and even fewer opportunities for education and employment are available to them.
Psychosocial services for processing violent experiences are only available in central reception facilities, if at all, and most do not meet the young people’s requirements. The affected communities are currently overwhelmed by the task of reintegrating returnees or those at risk of displacement. At the same time, there is a lack of suitable measures available for integrating children and young people at risk of violence and displacement into society, education and work, meaning they cannot develop prospects for remaining in their home country.
Children and youth at risk of displacement in selected communities in Central America’s Northern Triangle make use of the improved measures for integration into society, education and work, thereby increasing prospects for them to remain in their home country.
The project is working on a pilot basis in seven communities in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, where it supports state and non-state representatives with creating alternatives to irregular migration for children and young people. These services also intentionally incorporate returning youth in an effort to encourage reintegration into their original communities, avoid stigmatisation and create prospects for an independent life. The activities are implemented in three fields of action:
- Psychosocial support: Psychosocial support services for children and young people who are returning or at risk of displacement, and for their families, are expanded. The young people are also made aware of the risks that exist both on the migration route and once they have entered the destination country irregularly. For this purpose, the project supports local partner organisations with information campaigns and holds training courses for social workers, prevention experts, teachers and lecturers to make them better qualified to provide psychosocial counselling to the children and young people.
- Flexible offers of schooling and vocational training: In the communities, the project works with local education providers to adapt or develop a range of training and education measures to suit the needs of pupils and trainees. This includes using digital and mobile formats that aim to make job hunting easier as well as recognising alternative achievements as part of the school curriculum. To ensure that innovative and promising practices can be mainstreamed and disseminated, the project supports the networking of education providers with the private sector and local administration and encourages exchange between the communities at regional level.
- Cooperation for training and employment: By providing advisory services for the communities and local business associations, the project strengthens cooperation between the private sector, schools and administration to promote employment for young people in disadvantaged urban districts. The existing range of employment promotion measures is to be adapted to the needs and possibilities of young people and integrated better. These measures should be available to all young people in precarious circumstances and should, above all, combat stigmatisation of returnees.