Crime and displacement in Central America

This research area aims to develop a shared and thorough understanding of what constitutes internal displacement in the Northern Triangle of Central America. This will include country and context-specific characteristics, as well as a more comprehensive picture of the numbers, location and needs of people internally displaced. 

Thematic reports

El Salvador


Organised criminal violence associated with drug trafficking and gang activity has reached epidemic proportions in the Northern Triangle of Central America (NTCA) in recent years. In El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, IDMC estimates there were at least 432,000 IDPs as of the end of 2017, many of them driven from, and within, cities suffering the highest homicide rates in the world and levels of violence comparable with a war zone.
With increased attention to the violence, and associated factors such as poverty, inequality and weak governance, has come a growing awareness of the many ways in which gang violence forces people to abandon their homes in search of safety. However, most of the existing evidence on this form of internal displacement in the NTCA remains anecdotal, and data on IDPs – in terms of figures, locations, vulnerabilities and needs – is not collected through a harmonized approach to allow for comparison at regional level. There is, as such, a growing urgency to understand the phenomenon – the drivers, triggers, impacts and patterns – of internal displacement so as to provide the evidence base for operational and policy responses.
These initial research findings mark the end of the first year of a two-year project, financed by the United States Department of State's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration. We have been working with researchers and partners to develop a common conceptual framework of what constitutes internal displacement in the context of criminal violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. We have also worked with partners to consolidate existing data on the numbers, profiles, locations and needs of the most vulnerable IDPs in the region.

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Research lead

Bina Desai

Bina Desai

We are always looking to strengthen and expand partnerships. If you are interested in working with us, please contact

Have a look at our other research areas here