Panama Multi-Country Office - Internally Displaced Persons and Persons of Concern in El Salvador


As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the unfolding tropical storms, the government’s attention shifted to emergency prevention and response. The situation impacted on UNHCR’s programmes and ability to engage on key strategic issues such as the adoption of the regulations to implement the Special IDP Law. Moreover, the response to deportees with protection needs provided at the Directorate of Attention to Migrants (GAMI) was still very limited.

While the implementation of the law is underway, more funds were required to strengthen protection services, humanitarian assistance, and durable solutions for the population of concern to UNHCR. In addition, a new profiling exercise was a pending issue, essential to identify changes and trends of displacement, as a necessary input for the development of policies and specific protection responses from state institutions.

Psychological pressure and isolation during COVID-19 lockdowns resulted in increased domestic and sexual violence. Services provided by government institutions to gender-based violence survivors required further strengthening. Regarding child protection, governmental institutions, and their follow-up mechanisms, lacked capacities to provide alternative care for families and communities. The prevention of recruitment of children was limited.

Concerning asylum procedures, the Refugee Status Determination Commission (CODER) was unable to comply with the 30-day processing time for asylum claims defined by the law. Over 30 cases were pending a final decision in 2020. Despite advocacy efforts, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not signed the 1961 Convention to reduce statelessness.

UNHCR worked to bolster capacities in prioritized municipalities, which still face limitations in the communication and coordination among authorities at the local level, lack of clarity in the designation of focal points, and legal technical skills. Likewise, the rotation of municipal officials, especially after electoral periods, required an effort to carry out training in the field to ensure technical capacity in providing effective attention and services to the population of concern to UNHCR. There is no budget assigned in the municipalities for the attention of displaced persons, nor shelters to protect this population, which remained a challenge in 2020.

The pandemic posed several challenges at the regional and country levels, affecting governments’ availability of funds, technical capacity and coordination mechanisms among the entities involved, thus affecting the delivery of the expected results under the MIRPS.

More focus was also needed on advocacy with the public sector for the inclusion of IDPs and other people of concern into existing services and programmes.