In the efficient management of return processes, the Salvadoran municipality of Zacatecoluca has shown that, with a focused strategy, local governments can promote an integral reintegration of returnees and address the multiple causes of migration.
In 2015, this community of some 75 million inhabitants was the fourth most violent municipality in El Salvador. The violence and the difficulties faced by the population promoted a life project that favored irregular migration and negatively impacted the development indexes.
In 2018, Zacatecoluca occupies the tenth position among the municipalities with the highest number of returnees to El Salvador from the United States and Mexico, according to the statistics of the General Directorate of Migration and Immigration.
Despite a complex panorama, the municipality reports an improvement in the local competitiveness index and a reduction in violence by 60% according to the information registered by the Municipal Observatory for the Prevention of Violence, fed with data from the Police National Civil (PNC). This change has substantially improved the climate of citizen security and the quality of life of its residents.
How was this transformation achieved?
Zacatecoluca has launched a series of coordinated actions to improve performance in social and economic indicators, as well as a national and local strategy to improve the attention of the migrant and returnee population. This strategy consists of four elements:
- Preventive approach. The community has assumed the structural prevention of violence through the generation of a framework of protection, the creation of opportunities and the recovery of spaces. Some of the initiatives under this line of action include the creation of workshop schools, the promotion of projects for entrepreneurs, reintegration into the education system through flexible education modalities, the opening of youth employment offices focused on the population at risk and the promotion of artistic and cultural practices. Similarly, Zacatecoluca created a local office for victims of violence, which provides psychological services, legal advice and recreation to people who have survived sexual abuse, gender violence and domestic violence, among others.
- Increase in competitiveness. Zacatecoluca has also promoted an improvement in its municipal competitiveness indexes. This has been possible thanks to the development of innovative proposals that have attracted investment and improved mobility. The authorities have sought the inclusion of the rural sector and have applied the use of technologies to add value to the products of the area, but above all they have incorporated a gender and youth approach to reach the most vulnerable populations.
- Specific interventions for insertion of the returnee population. With the participation and cooperation of the IOM and the technical advice of the National Council for the Protection and Development of the Migrant Person and their Family (CONMIGRANTES), the creation of the first municipal office at a national level to care for the migrant and their families was initiated. The office provides services and advice on the prevention of irregular migration, assistance to returnees and links with Salvadorans abroad.
- Establishment of multisector alliances. The national government, international agencies, cooperation agencies, academia, the private sector and civil society organizations have provided support to the municipal office to achieve goals such as return, readmission and dignified and sustainable reintegration; capacity development and recognition of qualifications and competences; linking returnees with job opportunities and enabling spaces for coexistence.
The progress of Zacatecoluca shows the importance of local governments having a greater role in the policies of prevention and management of migration. Undoubtedly, their close relationship with people offers multiple opportunities to improve their quality of life and offer them greater protection.
Francisco Salvador Hirezi Morataya has a PhD in General Medicine from the University of El Salvador and a postgraduate degree at the Civil Hospital of Strasbourg, in Digestive and Endocrine Surgery. In 2009 he was elected Municipal Mayor of Zacatecoluca and currently holds his fourth term as mayor of this city. He is also a member of the Association of Municipalities of Los Nonualcos. Since 2015, he has been a member of the Board of Directors of the Corporation of Municipalities of the Republic of El Salvador (COMURES), currently serving as Director of Legal Affairs.