- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The U.N.’s top refugee official warned Western Hemisphere governments to prepare for a new surge of illegal immigrant women fleeing Central America and parts of Mexico, where they are being terrorized by gang violence.

Antonio Guterres, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said the violence “has become pervasive” and released a report detailing the stories of woman who have fled, and who describe harrowing journeys where rape was so common that women reported getting contraceptive injections or taking birth control pills beforehand, so they wouldn’t get pregnant.

“The countries of the Northern Triangle have basic structural challenges to rule of law, citizen security, and justice,” the report said. “As a result, the women cannot rely on the police for protection and many have a lack of trust in government institutions due to police collusion. They flee north because they have no choice. It is a matter of life and death.”

The surge of women and children last year overwhelmed border officials in the U.S., and they are still struggling to come up with the right policies in the face of political pressure from Hispanic rights advocates, court orders limiting their enforcement options, and questions about the root causes of the problem.

Obama administration officials initially blamed growing violence in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador for the surge, but later said in court papers that it was a belief among illegal immigrants that they could gain entry and earn some sort of status in the U.S. that drew tens of thousands of migrants a month.

The new U.N. report pushes back on that, saying that the women are fleeing horrific conditions and should be considered refugees, not illegal immigrants. Of 16,077 women who reached the U.S. last year and made refugee claims, 82 percent were deemed to have good cases, the U.N. said, citing Obama administration data.

The report details the stories gleaned from interviews with 160 women, and said they “consistently” were unable to get help from local police in their home countries after suffering attacks or threats.

One woman, identified in the report as Norma from El Salvador, was abducted and raped in what she believed was a targeted attack specifically because her husband was a police officer. She has since fled to the U.S. where she was being held in detention at the time the U.N. officials interviewed her.

More than 60 percent of the women said they’d seen dead bodies in their neighborhoods back home, with many of them saying it was a weekly occurrence.

The violence was heavily blamed on the rise of powerful transnational criminal gangs who control neighborhoods through threats or actual violence, and who build their numbers by recruiting children from the neighborhoods.

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