Over a thousand migrants have returned voluntarily with assistance from IOM in Central America

1 March, 2019


In response to the so-called “migrant caravans” in Central America, in October 2018 the International Organization for Migration (IOM) created a special temporary program to assist the voluntary return of migrants stranded in Mexico or Guatemala who lack the necessary resources to return to their homes. To date, IOM has provided assistance for the voluntary return of 1,195 people, 48 of whom are unaccompanied minors.  

The majority of the people who have been assisted are of Honduran (74%) and Salvadoran (23%) nationality. 83% are men and 17% are women, primarily between the ages of 19 and 45 (74%). 

“I was relieved to know I had this option, because if I hadn’t, I would have had to return by train and that's very dangerous for me. We are at risk of assault, rape, and kidnapping; it isn’t easy to go north, or to return,” commented Brenda, a Honduran woman who decided to return from the northern border of Mexico with assistance from IOM, for reasons of family reunification. “The help they are giving me to return to my country gives me hope, I am very happy to return and go back to my family,” she added.    

Mario Albir, another beneficiary, commented that he received information on IOM’s Assisted Voluntary Return Program at a shelter where he stayed in Tecún Umán, Guatemala, and so he decided to take advantage of the program to return to his country safely. He emphasized that it is important for options for return to exist, because conditions can change a lot during the journey. “When we left, we took money out of the bank to be able to travel and eat, but cash gets used up on the way. When the situation got complicated, we decided to return,” added Luis Martínez, another migrant who benefited from assistance, from El Salvador. 

Liliam Mejía, for her part, is a Salvadoran woman who decided to return when she was in Tijuana, Mexico. “I felt alone, so I said: ‘no, I’m better off with my children’; so I decided to come back...you don’t sleep well, you don't eat well, plus the cold, the worry. There's nothing easy about it,” Lilliam summarized her experience.   

“Migrants approach IOM to request assistance for return, and we do an interview to evaluate whether another need exists, like international protection. If they are eligible for the program, we take charge of managing the return,” explained Monserrat Hernández, Coordinator of the IOM office in Tapachula. Hernández explains that the assistance includes food, transportation, and medical assistance, among other things.  

Over recent decades, IOM has helped thousands of people to return to their country of origin or residence through its Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration Programs, in accordance with the right to return named as a principle of international law, codified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. For IOM, the principle of voluntariness is an essential requirement for choosing this type of program. 

The most recent report on IOM’s Assisted Voluntary Return can be downloaded here  

For more information, please contact Tatiana Chacón Salazar, Email: tchacon@iom.int