No detention centre mapping data


El Salvador Immigration Detention

Nearly 40 percent of El Salvador’s population lives abroad and yet the country makes a concerted effort to remove undocumented foreigners. Although immigration detention is not properly regulated in Salvadoran law, the country has established a specialised detention facility, which holds more than a 1,000 people a year as they await deportation.

Quick Facts


Immigration detainees (2009): 1,229
Immigration detention capacity (2008): 80
International migrants (2015): 42,000
New asylum applications (2016): 5

Profile Updated: September 2015

El Salvador Immigration Detention Profile

While almost 40 percent of El Salvador’s population lives abroad, it is also a transit and destination country. Migrants apprehended without proper documents are detained as they await deportation. Although immigration detention is not properly regulated in law, in practice El Salvador tends to confine more than 1,000 migrants per year (1,200 in 2009) and operates a dedicated immigration detention centre called the Centro de Atención Integral para el Migrante (CAMI).

A small and densely populated country, El Salvador has long been a country of emigration. However, mass emigration from the country has attracted people from nearby countries in search of jobs, particularly in the agriculture and construction sectors. El Salvador also serves as an important transit state for people migrating north. In 2004 border guards apprehended 2,332 persons without documents, and 2,255 in 2005.[1]

El Salvador’s immigration regime is established in a series of long-standing pieces of legislation: the 1958 Migration Law (Ley de Migración), and its accompanying 1959 Regulation of the Migration Law, as well as the 1986 Foreigners’ Law (Ley de Extranjería). A draft of a new migration and foreigners’ law, intended to consolidate and replace the existing legislation, has been in negotiations for several years. The 2002 Refugees Law (Ley para la Determinación de la Condición de Personas Refugiadas) and the 2005 Regulation of the Refugees Law provide the legal framework for the country’s asylum and refugee regime.[2]

The Refugee Law provides for the detention of persons seeking asylum for a maximum of three days during the initial screening procedures (articles 15-16). However, the Migration Law and the Foreigners’ Law do not provide for administrative detention. The only provision mentioning detention is article 60 of the Migration Law, in the section titled “Sanctions.” Accordingly, a foreigner who enters El Salvador in an undocumented manner can be punished with a fine, which can be replaced by a detention (arresto) of up to 30 days. In 2003, the Supreme Court of El Salvador declared such deprivation of liberty as unconstitutional because under article 14 of the country’s constitution deprivation of liberty ordered by administrative organ can last only up to five days. In 2011 the Supreme Court found that Salvadorian legislation does not provide for detention as part of expulsion procedures.[3]

Despites this legal vacuum, in practice migrants who are apprehended without papers are detained to prepare their deportation.[4] As observed by civil society organisations, like Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala, in El Salvador authorities systematically apply immigration detention and there are no alternatives to detention. The majority of detainees are not from Central America.[5]

According to statistics from the Migration Directorate, 372 persons were detained in 2006, 1,645 in 2007, 1,527 in 2008, and 1,229 in 2009.[6] As of 23 October 2008, there were five people in detention.[7]

A handbook produced by the Salvadoran border guards division of the Migration Directorate states that the maximum time migrants can be held in a detention centre is five days. Governmental sources reported in 2008 that the average time period people spend in immigration detention was roughly five days.[8] However, in 2007 non-governmental organizations observed that detention typically lasted between 45 days and 3 months.[9] According to information provided by advocacy organisation, in 2014 the average length of detention was 30 days though some cases reportedly lasted considerably longer.[10]

There is no automatic review of detention. Civil society organisations, such as Programa de Atención a Personas Refugiadas en El Salvador (IAES PARES), offer legal assistance to detainees.[11]

In July 2008 the country opened a dedicated immigration detention facility, called the Centro de Atención Integral para el Migrante (CAIM). It appears to be the only long-term immigration facility used in El Salvador. The centre is managed by the Migration Directorate (Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería) and is located at the premises of the Ministry of Justice and Public Security in San Salvador. Before opening the centre, migrants were generally detained in police facilities, particularly those located in border areas (División de Fronteras de la Policía Nacional Civil).[12]

According to a 2008 report from the Salvadoran government, the CAIM facility has a maximum capacity of 80. The building has three floors and a basement. There is a kitchen and an eating room, alongside a visiting, entertainment, and recreation room. The centre is divided in four sections for men, women, families, and vulnerable persons, each equipped with a bathroom. The government reportedly spent almost 190,000 USD for the renovation and reconstruction of the building to set up the centre.[13] According to the government, detainees receive adequate food and medical, psychological, and social assistance. The National Civil Police and the Ministry of Health and Social Assistance signed an agreement under which the latter is to ensure prompt medical assistance for detainees.[14]

Unaccompanied minors are taken into charge by the Salvadoran Institute for the Integral Development of Children and Adolescents (Instituto Salvadoreño para el Desarrollo Integral de la Niñez y la Adolescencia).[15] However, children who migrate with their parents or guardians are have been with their families at the CAIM facility.[16]

 

[1] Government of El Salvador. CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS SUBMITTED BY STATES PARTIES UNDER ARTICLE 73 OF THE CONVENTION: Initial reports of States parties due in 2004: EL SALVADOR. OHCHR. 20 August 2007. http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G07/436/47/PDF/G0743647.pdf?OpenElement, p. 11-20.

[2] Government of El Salvador. CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS SUBMITTED BY STATES PARTIES UNDER ARTICLE 73 OF THE CONVENTION: Initial reports of States parties due in 2004: EL SALVADOR. OHCHR. 20 August 2007. http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G07/436/47/PDF/G0743647.pdf?OpenElement, p. 8.

[3] International Detention Coalition (IDC). INFORME REGIONAL DETENCIÓN MIGRATORIA Y ALTERNATIVAS A LA DETENCIÓN EN LAS AMÉRICAS. October 2014, p. 21 and 35. Norma Verónica Ardón. “Estudio Migratorio de el Salvador”. In Instituto Centroamericano de Estudios Sociales y Desarrollo (INCEDES) and Sin Fronteras (Eds.). Estudio comparativo de la legislación y políticas migratorias en Centroamérica, México y República, November 2011. Dominicana. http://www.sinfronteras.org.mx/index.php/es/publicaciones/de-sin-fronteras/informes-anuales-2/380-estudio-comparativo-de-la-legislacion-y-politicas-migratorias-en-centroamerica-mexico-y-republica-dominicana. P. 195.

[4] Norma Verónica Ardón. “Estudio Migratorio de el Salvador”. In Instituto Centroamericano de Estudios Sociales y Desarrollo (INCEDES) and Sin Fronteras (Eds.). Estudio comparativo de la legislación y políticas migratorias en Centroamérica, México y República, November 2011. Dominicana. http://www.sinfronteras.org.mx/index.php/es/publicaciones/de-sin-fronteras/informes-anuales-2/380-estudio-comparativo-de-la-legislacion-y-politicas-migratorias-en-centroamerica-mexico-y-republica-dominicana. P. 197.

[5] International Detention Coalition (IDC). INFORME REGIONAL DETENCIÓN MIGRATORIA Y ALTERNATIVAS A LA DETENCIÓN EN LAS AMÉRICAS. October 2014, p. 5. Undisclosed source. Interview with Izabella Majcher (Global Detention Project). September 2013.

[6] Norma Verónica Ardón. “Estudio Migratorio de el Salvador”. In Instituto Centroamericano de Estudios Sociales y Desarrollo (INCEDES) and Sin Fronteras (Eds.). Estudio comparativo de la legislación y políticas migratorias en Centroamérica, México y República, November 2011. Dominicana. http://www.sinfronteras.org.mx/index.php/es/publicaciones/de-sin-fronteras/informes-anuales-2/380-estudio-comparativo-de-la-legislacion-y-politicas-migratorias-en-centroamerica-mexico-y-republica-dominicana. P. 200

[7] Government of El Salvador. 2008. RESPUESTAS ESCRITAS DEL GOBIERNO DE LA REPÚBLICA DE EL SALVADOR EN RELACIÓN CON LA LISTA DE CUESTIONES (CMW/C/SLV/Q/1) RECIBIDAS POR EL COMITÉ PARA LA PROTECCIÓN DE LOS DERECHOS DE TODOS LOS TRABAJADORES MIGRATORIOS Y DE SUS FAMILIARES EN RELACIÓN CON EL EXAMEN DEL INFORME INICIAL DE LA REPÚBLICA DE EL SALVADOR (CMW/C/SLV/1). CMW/C/SLV/Q/1/Add.1. 24 October 2008. OHCHR. www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cmw/docs/CMW-C-SLV-Q1-Add1_sp.doc, p. 11.

[8] Government of El Salvador. 2008. RESPUESTAS ESCRITAS DEL GOBIERNO DE LA REPÚBLICA DE EL SALVADOR EN RELACIÓN CON LA LISTA DE CUESTIONES (CMW/C/SLV/Q/1) RECIBIDAS POR EL COMITÉ PARA LA PROTECCIÓN DE LOS DERECHOS DE TODOS LOS TRABAJADORES MIGRATORIOS Y DE SUS FAMILIARES EN RELACIÓN CON EL EXAMEN DEL INFORME INICIAL DE LA REPÚBLICA DE EL SALVADOR (CMW/C/SLV/1). CMW/C/SLV/Q/1/Add.1. 24 October 2008. OHCHR. www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cmw/docs/CMW-C-SLV-Q1-Add1_sp.doc, p. 11.

[9] Instituto de Estudios Políticos para América Latina y África and Médicos Sin Fronteras. Informacion comparada sobre detencion de solicitantes de asilo en Centroamerica y Caribe. 2007. http://www.gloobal.net/iepala/gloobal/fichas/ficha.php?entidad=Textos&id=4303&opcion=documento#ficha_gloobal.

[10] International Detention Coalition (IDC). INFORME REGIONAL DETENCIÓN MIGRATORIA Y ALTERNATIVAS A LA DETENCIÓN EN LAS AMÉRICAS. October 2014, p. 23.

[11] International Detention Coalition (IDC). INFORME REGIONAL DETENCIÓN MIGRATORIA Y ALTERNATIVAS A LA DETENCIÓN EN LAS AMÉRICAS. October 2014, p. 33 and 69.

[12] Norma Verónica Ardón. “Estudio Migratorio de el Salvador”. In Instituto Centroamericano de Estudios Sociales y Desarrollo (INCEDES) and Sin Fronteras (Eds.). Estudio comparativo de la legislación y políticas migratorias en Centroamérica, México y República, November 2011. Dominicana. http://www.sinfronteras.org.mx/index.php/es/publicaciones/de-sin-fronteras/informes-anuales-2/380-estudio-comparativo-de-la-legislacion-y-politicas-migratorias-en-centroamerica-mexico-y-republica-dominicana. P. 199. See also: Michael Flynn. 2002. “Donde Esta la Frontera?” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. July/August 2012. .

[13] Government of El Salvador. 2008. RESPUESTAS ESCRITAS DEL GOBIERNO DE LA REPÚBLICA DE EL SALVADOR EN RELACIÓN CON LA LISTA DE CUESTIONES (CMW/C/SLV/Q/1) RECIBIDAS POR EL COMITÉ PARA LA PROTECCIÓN DE LOS DERECHOS DE TODOS LOS TRABAJADORES MIGRATORIOS Y DE SUS FAMILIARES EN RELACIÓN CON EL EXAMEN DEL INFORME INICIAL DE LA REPÚBLICA DE EL SALVADOR (CMW/C/SLV/1). CMW/C/SLV/Q/1/Add.1. 24 October 2008. OHCHR. www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cmw/docs/CMW-C-SLV-Q1-Add1_sp.doc, p. 9-10.

[14] Government of El Salvador. 2008. RESPUESTAS ESCRITAS DEL GOBIERNO DE LA REPÚBLICA DE EL SALVADOR EN RELACIÓN CON LA LISTA DE CUESTIONES (CMW/C/SLV/Q/1) RECIBIDAS POR EL COMITÉ PARA LA PROTECCIÓN DE LOS DERECHOS DE TODOS LOS TRABAJADORES MIGRATORIOS Y DE SUS FAMILIARES EN RELACIÓN CON EL EXAMEN DEL INFORME INICIAL DE LA REPÚBLICA DE EL SALVADOR (CMW/C/SLV/1). CMW/C/SLV/Q/1/Add.1. 24 October 2008. OHCHR. www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cmw/docs/CMW-C-SLV-Q1-Add1_sp.doc, p. 9-10.

[15] Norma Verónica Ardón. “Estudio Migratorio de el Salvador”. In Instituto Centroamericano de Estudios Sociales y Desarrollo (INCEDES) and Sin Fronteras (Eds.). Estudio comparativo de la legislación y políticas migratorias en Centroamérica, México y República, November 2011. Dominicana. http://www.sinfronteras.org.mx/index.php/es/publicaciones/de-sin-fronteras/informes-anuales-2/380-estudio-comparativo-de-la-legislacion-y-politicas-migratorias-en-centroamerica-mexico-y-republica-dominicana. P. 199.

[16] FESPAD. 2º Examen Periódico Universal de El Salvador: informes official y alternativos. December 2014. http://www.lwfcamerica.org/uploaded/content/article/1828638740.pdf, p. 20. 

Centres List

No detention centres data available

Statistics Expand all



1,229

Total number of immigration detainees by year

2009

  • Total number of immigration detainees by year
NumberObservation Date
1,2292009
1,5272008
1,6452007
3722006


3

Immigration detainees as a percentage of total international migrant population

2009

  • Immigration detainees as a percentage of total international migrant population
PercentageObservation Date
32009


80

Estimated total immigration detention capacity

2008

  • Estimated total immigration detention capacity
NumberObservation Date
802008


1

Number of dedicated long-term immigration detention centres

2015

  • Number of dedicated long-term immigration detention centres
NumberObservation Date
12015


80

Estimated capacity of dedicated long-term immigration detention centres

2008

  • Estimated capacity of dedicated long-term immigration detention centres
NumberObservation Date
802008


0

Number of dedicated medium-term immigration detention centres

2015

  • Number of dedicated medium-term immigration detention centres
NumberObservation Date
02015


0

Number of immigration offices

2015

  • Number of immigration offices
NumberObservation Date
02015


0

Number of transit facilities

2015

  • Number of transit facilities
NumberObservation Date
02015


0

Number of criminal facilities

2015

  • Number of criminal facilities
NumberObservation Date
02015


0

Number of ad hoc facilities

2015

  • Number of ad hoc facilities
NumberObservation Date
02015


38,007

Criminal prison population

2017

  • Criminal prison population
NumberObservation Date
38,0072017
26,7962014
24,2832010
16,7862007
12,0732004
9,4712001
8,1731998
7,0131995
5,3481992


1.3

Percentage of foreign prisoners

2017

  • Percentage of foreign prisoners
PercentageObservation Date
1.32017
1.72014


585

Prison population rate (per 100,000 of national population)

2017

  • Prison population rate (per 100,000 of national population)
NumberObservation Date
5852017
4242014
3912010
2742007
2002004
1582001
1391998
1231995
971992



6,127,000

Population

2015

  • Population
NumberObservation Date
6,127,0002015
6,300,0002012


42,000

International migrants

2015

  • International migrants
NumberObservation Date
42,0002015
41,6002013


0.7

International migrants as a percentage of the population

2015

  • International migrants as a percentage of the population
PercentageObservation Date
0.72015
0.72013


36

Refugees

2016

  • Refugees
NumberObservation Date
362016
482015
442014


0.01

Ratio of refugees per 1000 inhabitants

2014

  • Ratio of refugees per 1000 inhabitants
NumberObservation Date
0.012014
0.012012


5

Total number of new asylum applications

2016

  • Total number of new asylum applications
NumberObservation Date
52016
122014
42012


61.5

Refugee recognition rate

2014

  • Refugee recognition rate
NumberObservation Date
61.52014


0

Stateless persons

2016

  • Stateless persons
NumberObservation Date
02016
02014

Domestic Law Expand all

Legal tradition Show sources
NameObservation Date
Civil law

Constitutional guarantees? Show sources
NameConstitution and ArticlesYear AdoptedLast Year Amended
YesConstitution of the Republic of El Salvador, article 1319831983
Core pieces of national legislation Show sources
NameYear AdoptedLast Year Amended
Ley de extranjería, Decreto Legislativo No. 299 de 19861986
Ley para la determinación de la condición de personas refugiadas, Decreto No. 918 de 2002 2002
Ley de migración, Decreto Legislativo No. 2772 de 19581958
Regulations, standards, guidelines Show sources
NameYear Published
Reglamento de la ley de migración, Decreto Ejecutivo No. 33 de 19591959

Does the country provide specific criminal penalties for immigration-related violations? Show sources
FinesIncarcerationObservation Date
Yes2014

Average length of detention Show sources
Number of DaysObservation Date
302014
702007
Maximum length of detention for asylum-seekers
Number of DaysObservation Date
32015

Provision of basic procedural standards Show sources
NameIn LawIn PracticeObservation Date
Access to free interpretation servicesNo2015
Complaints mechanism regarding detention conditionsNo2015
Compensation for unlawful detentionNo2015
Information to detaineesNo2015
Independent review of detentionNoNo2014

Impact of alternatives Show sources
NameImpact of NatureObservation Date
Not applicableThere are no alternatives to detention2013

Is the detention of vulnerable persons provided in law? Are they detained in practice? Show sources
NameIn LawIn PracticeObservation Date
Accompanied minorsNot mentionedYes2014
Unaccompanied minorsNot mentionedNo2011

International Law Expand all

International treaties Show sources
NameRatification Year
OP ICESCR, Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights2011
OP CRC Communications Procedure2015
CRSSP, Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons2015
CRPD, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2007
CTOCTP, Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children2004
CTOCSP, Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime2004
ICRMW, International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families2003
CAT, Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment1996
CRC, Convention on the Rights of the Child1990
CRSR, Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees1983
PCRSR, Protocol to the Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees1983
CEDAW, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women1981
ICERD, International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination1979
ICCPR, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights1979
ICESCR, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights1979
VCCR, Vienna Convention on Consular Relations1973
Ratio of relevant international treaties ratified
  16/19
Individual complaints procedure Show sources
NameAcceptance Year
ICESCR, Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 20082011
CRPD, Optional Protocol to o the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities2007
ICCPR, First Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 19661995
Ratio of complaints procedures accepted Show sources
NumberObservation Date
3/8
3/8
Relevant recommendations issued by treaty bodies Show sources
NameRecommendation ExcerptRecommendation Year
Committee on Migrant Workers§49. The Committee encourages the State party to continue focusing on the situation of unaccompanied migrant children and to respect the principle of the best interests of the child. In particular, the State party should: (a) Focus on developing policies to address the difficulties faced by unaccompanied migrant children and on setting up mechanisms for their identification and protection; (b) Strengthen cooperation with transit and destination countries in order to ensure that unaccompanied migrant children who have been the victims of crime are properly protected and that they receive individual care tailored to the specific needs of each case; (c) Strengthen cooperation with transit and destination countries in order to ensure that unaccompanied migrant children are not detained for having entered transit or destination countries in an irregular fashion, that minors who are accompanied by family members are not separated from them and that families are housed in protection centres; (d) Strengthen cooperation with transit and destination countries so that unaccompanied minors are repatriated to the State party only if it is in the best interests of the child and when it has been established that the child, upon his or her return, will be safe and provided with proper care and custody, under a procedure with proper safeguards; (e) Take the necessary steps to ensure that repatriated minors are taken in by family members and resettled and reintegrated in a lasting fashion in their home communities; (f) Develop policies on support, protection and family reunification for Salvadoran children whose parents have emigrated. §50.The Committee views with concern the systematic detention of Salvadoran migrant workers, prior to repatriation, in destination and transit countries because of their irregular status. §51. The Committee recommends that the State party strengthen cooperation with transit and destination countries in order to ensure that the detention of Salvadoran migrant workers in an irregular situation in such countries is used only as a last resort.2014

Regional legal instruments Show sources
NameYear of Ratification (Treaty) / Transposed (Directive) / Adoption (Regulation)
ACHR, American Convention on Human Rights1978
IACPPT, Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture1994
CBDP, Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women (Convention of Belem do Para)1995
APACHR, Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights1995

Visits by special procedures of the Human Rights Council Show sources
NameYear of VisitObservation Date
Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences20042015
Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences20102015
Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography20102015
Working Group on arbitrary detention20122015
Relevant recommendations of the UN Universal Periodic Review Show sources
Recomendation IssuedYear IssuedObservation Date
No20102017
No2014

Institutions Expand all

Federal or centralized governing system Show sources
Federal or centralized governing systemObservation Date
Centralized system2015
Centralized or decentralized immigration authority Show sources
Centralized or decentralized immigration authorityObservation Date
Centralized immigration authority2008

Custodial authority Show sources
AgencyMinistryMinistry TypologyObservation Date
Direccion General de Migracion y ExtranjeriaMinisterio de Justicia y Seguridad PúblicaJustice2011
Direccion General de Migracion y ExtranjeriaMinisterio de Seguridad Pública y JusticiaInternal or Public Security2008
Direccion General de Migracion y ExtranjeriaMinisterio de Justicia y Seguridad PúblicaJustice2008
Detention Facility Management Show sources
Entity NameEntity TypeObservation Date
Migration Directorate (Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería)Governmental2011
Formally designated detention estate? Show sources
Formally designated immigration detention estate?Types of officially designated detention centresObservation Date
No2015
Types of detention facilities used in practice Show sources
Immigration detention centre (Administrative)Immigration field office (Administrative)Transit centre (Administrative)Reception centre (Administrative)Offshore detention centre (Administrative)Hospital (Administrative)Border guard (Administrative)Police station (Criminal)National penitentiary (Criminal)Local prison (Criminal)Juvenile detention centre (Criminal)Informal camp (Ad hoc)Immigration detention centre (Ad hoc)Surge facility (Ad hoc)Observation Date
Yes2015

Authorized monitoring institutions Show sources
InstitutionInstitution TypeObservation Date
Programa de Atención a Personas Refugiadas en El Salvador (IAES PARES)Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO)2014

Socio Economic Data Expand all

Gross Domestic Product per capita (in USD) Show sources
Gross Domestic Product per capita (in USD)Observation Date
4,1202014
3,8262013
Remittances to the country Show sources
Remittances to the country (in millions USD)Observation Date
4,2362014
3,6362011
Remittances from the country Show sources
Remittances from the country (in millions USD)Observation Date
232010
Unemployment Rate Show sources
Unemployment RateObservation Date
6.22014
Net official development assistance (ODA) (in millions USD) Show sources
Net official development assistance (ODA) (in USD)Observation Date
97.92014
Human Development Index Ranking (UNDP) Show sources
Human Development Index Ranking (UNDP)UNDP four-tiered rankingObservation Date
116Medium2015
115Medium2014

Additional Resources


Immigration Detention in El Salvador

Nearly 40 percent of El Salvador’s population lives abroad and yet the country makes a concerted effort to remove undocumented foreigners. Although immigration detention is not properly regulated in Salvadoran law, the country has established a specialised detention facility, which holds more than a 1,000 people a year as they await deportation.

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