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Chapter 4 – Refugee Experiences

Faced with overwhelming violence, displaced populations faced difficult decisions about whether to leave El Salvador, and when to return. Some people sought safety elsewhere within the country. Others went into exile or sought asylum in countries around the world. Many crossed the border into Honduras, where they eventually were concentrated in the Mesa Grande refugee camp created by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Even in the Honduran refugee camps, people endured harsh living conditions and continued repression by the military and security forces of both El Salvador and Honduras. Refugees were not allowed to leave the camps without escort; some were disappeared or killed, and many others died of preventable illnesses due to poor conditions. Despite these challenges, refugees organized themselves, and many participated in medical, educational, and economic initiatives. Some refugees decided to return to El Salvador independently, while others negotiated with the government to resettle collectively during the late 1980s, despite the war that still raged in their home country.

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