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Norwegian Refugee Council: Violence, Climate & Poverty Are Fueling Migration from Central America

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We continue our conversation with Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, who has just returned from Honduras. He calls on the international community to do more to help in Central America, where one in three people are in urgent need of humanitarian aid, and gangs, drug trafficking and violence are forcing many to flee north. North Americans, says Egeland, must “honor the legitimate asylum applications for protection of people” from their “own neighborhood.”

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to switch gears now from Sudan to Honduras, where you’ve just returned from.


AMY GOODMAN: Jan Egeland, if you can talk about the situation on the ground there, what you’re concerned with most, and the call by U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen, Ben Cardin, Tim Kaine, Congressmember Joaquin Castro, who sent a letter to the Biden administration calling for the president to continue to protect Salvadorans and Hondurans with temporary protected status, or TPS? Connect all these issues.

JAN EGELAND: Well, and that’s a very important letter, really. And for the North Americans, it’s important to realize that in your neighborhood there are warlike conditions. I’ve been now three times to Central America, crisscrossing many of the countries. I was in Honduras in recent days. There are thousands and thousands of families in the middle of the crossfire between armed groups, drug cartels, heavily armed gangs. These people are in the same situation as the Sudanese or, if you like, the Ukrainians or the Syrians, that get much more of the attention. So, the reason people are moving north is that there is no security for them in Central America. There is no hope for a better future. So what we have to do, and what we can do as organizations on the ground with resources from North America but also from Europe and Gulf countries and so on, is to provide humanitarian protection, education, livelihoods, so that there is hope for a better future there, at the same time as, of course, North America needs to honor the legitimate asylum applications for protection of people from your own neighborhood.

AMY GOODMAN: And can you explain why humanitarian funding in Honduras, in Guatemala, in El Salvador has been reduced to some of the lowest globally during this crisis, and the effect this has, and particularly talk about the effect of U.S. immigration policy?

JAN EGELAND: Well, indeed, it’s utterly underfunded, our humanitarian programming in Central America. One-third of the population needs humanitarian relief on levels of what you would have in other places, even in Africa, in terms of needs. There is one big donor, and that’s the United States. So, where is Europe? Where is the Gulf countries? Where are the larger Asian economies? We need to wake up all of the donor nations for this crisis, which is driven by immense violence against women, children, families; climate change, which is hitting this region so hard; but also in poverty in general.

So, I was in a school, just one example, in La Lima, Honduras. They had 5,000 students in this secondary school five years ago. Now there is 1,200, a reduction of 4,000. And I asked why. Because there is too much fear to go to school for violence, and thousands had been walking north. There were several students on their way north at this moment.

So, indeed, there has to be a real investment in hope in Central America. If not, this will just continue and continue.

AMY GOODMAN: Jan Egeland, we want to thank you so much for being with us, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, in Washington, D.C., this week.

That does it for our show. Democracy Now! is produced with Renée Feltz, Mike Burke, Deena Guzder, Messiah Rhodes, Nermeen Shaikh, María Taracena, Tami Woronoff, Charina Nadura, Sam Alcoff, Tey-Marie Astudillo, John Hamilton, Robby Karran, Hany Massoud, Sonyi Lopez and Denis Moynihan. Our executive director is Julie Crosby. Special thanks to Becca Staley and Jon Randolph, Paul Powell, Mike Di Filippo, Miguel Nogueira, Hugh Gran, David Prude and Dennis McCormick.

If you want to see transcripts of our show and all our past shows — you can get video and audio podcasts — go to, where you can also sign up for our daily digest each day. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks so much for joining us.

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