IOM Completes Population, Housing Census on Honduras, El Salvador Border
Honduras - The IOM offices in Honduras and El Salvador have completed a population and housing census in the border region of Nahuaterique.
The results of the census, which included surveys and interviews with villagers, with men and women equally represented, will contribute to guaranteeing the rights of populations living in the border regions of both countries, especially vulnerable populations.
The IOM-managed census registered more than 6,000 persons, which will allow them to access social programs such as health, education and housing.
Following a 1969 territorial war between Honduras and El Salvador, the Nahuaterique region was one of the six areas disputed by both countries.
For decades, the so-called Bolsón Nahuaterique was the subject of numerous disputes due to its relatively large territory and population.
On 11 September 1992, the International Court of Justice in The Hague rendered a ruling delimiting the border between the two countries, allocating to Honduras 300 kilometers of the 450 in dispute.
Today, residents on the Honduran side of the border cross into El Salvador in search of employment and to access education and healthcare.
"Free movement is our right; we migrate between the two countries because we have our land on one side, and on the other side we find support in healthcare and employment,” says Carlos Argueta, a community leader in the border community of Palo Blanco. "Many of the people living throughout Nahuaterique do not have identification papers, making it a problem for them to prove legal ownership of their land."
Under the Convention on Nationality and Acquired Rights in the Demarcated Areas, in 1998 the governments of Honduras and El Salvador recognized that the inhabitants of this region had a right to opt for both Salvadoran and Honduran nationality by birth. They were also granted right of ownership, possession and holding of land, and the free movement of people and goods across the border.
But despite efforts made by both countries, the population faces an irregular situation in legal terms, given the ambiguity of their nationality.
At the census closing ceremony, which took place in Palo Blanco, IOM officially handed over the final report to the presidents of the Bi-National Monitoring Commission.
"IOM has fulfilled all of the objectives outlined from the planning stage of the project which were very focused on enhancing cooperation between both governments in order to standardize legal processes for the population of Nahuaterique. We also succeeded in promoting best practices and adequate models of management and coordination to carry out census activities border regions,” explains Jorge Peraza, IOM Chief of Mission in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.
The programme, funded by the IOM Development Fund (IDF), also strengthened the capacity of government statistics institutions with the aim of boosting development in the region. It compiled statistics and trained over 30 officials and members of civil society organizations through awareness raising workshops led by human rights experts. It also provided first aid kits, mattresses for the elderly and commemorative census shirts to local people.
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