MSF Speaking Out

Salvadoran Refugee Camps In Honduras 1988

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The withdrawal from Salvadoran refugee camps in Honduras

The 'Salvadoran Refugee Camps in Honduras 1988' case study describes the dilemmas regarding a stance that … was not supposed to be public. In 1988, after 8 years in the Salvadoran refugee camps in Honduras, MSF decided to withdraw. It refused to meet the excessive, and even dangerous, demands of the refugee committees which were extensions of the Salvadoran guerrilla forces that exerted a tight and violent control over the refugee camps. MSF, however, refused to reveal the real reasons for its departure so as to avoid a crackdown of the Honduran army on the refugees.

Internal debates preceding MSF's withdrawal:

  • In order to continue assisting the refugee population is it acceptable that this aid strengthens the guerrilla’s totalitarian hold over the refugees?
  • Having decided to withdraw in the name of certain principles, is it acceptable to publicly expose these principles, thereby potentially endangering the refugees by revealing the presence of the guerrilla forces in the camps?
  • On the other hand, would remaining silent about the reasons for withdrawal not negate the sense and impact of such a decision?

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Additional materials

MAP MSF Programmes in Honduras 1988
MSF Programs in Honduras 1988