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Central AmericaGuatemala

Strengthening rights for a population marked by emigration

Each day, many inhabitants of Chimaltenango and Huehuetenango leave their place of origin in search of better prospects, venturing to one of the most dangerous routes in the world to Mexico or the United States. Together with ECAP, we work in the promotion of rights and the empowerment of its inhabitants to change a reality that has been going on for more than 50 years.

Migrants have the right to live free from fear and violence.

Like other countries in North Central America, Guatemala is affected by violence, crime, corruption, environmental disasters and poverty, resulting in a constant influx of people who choose to migrate to the United States.

For young people, migration is an opportunity to rethink their life choices based on the expectations created by the lack of access to better structural conditions at the national and local levels. This decision has a direct impact on the family and the community on an emotional and economic level.

The country's migration policy is currently based on migration control rules and agreements imposed by the United States, which are focused on security. This results in tighter measures for containment, detention, deportation, and border security. Consequently, this has a restrictive and policing character that is contrary to human rights.

From 2020 to 2022, a total of 94,633 Guatemalan migrants* were deported from the United States for attempting to enter the country through the border from Mexico (Instituto Guatemalteco de Migración 12.2022).


In our project communities of Chimaltenango and Huehuetenango, migration has been a form of livelihood since the 1960s, and monthly remittances are a critical contribution to family livelihoods. The need to access work opportunities other than the subsistence agricultural sector has been a driver for many people who see their opportunities limited by the lack of economic development in these historically excluded sectors in Guatemala.

In Chimaltenango, the municipality of San Martín Jilotepeque is the one with more departures of migrants to the United States. The combination of unemployment, lack of job and/or educational opportunities, poverty and family reunification continue to be the main reasons for migration. With false information, these criminals encourage people to believe that the journey is safe or that they will not be arrested in Mexico, at the border or in the United States. It is a lucrative business for those who take advantage of people's vulnerability in this region. Meanwhile, the coyote costs up to $25,000 US for three attempts. As a result, families sell or lease their few possessions or their land or house in the hope that the immigrant family member will be able to pay off these debts with earnings in the United States. Unfortunately, this is often a fallacy and young people return empty-handed and with a great emotional burden.

On the other hand, Huehuetenango is a border area with Mexico. The area is characterized by drug trafficking, human trafficking, smuggling, and violence against women. The national police are involved in activities that violate migrants' human rights, such as extortion and sexual abuse of young women.


When people decide to migrate, in most cases they are unaware of the risks involved. They set out without knowing that they will encounter difficult terrain, hunger, thirst, and violence along the way. In many cases, they are abandoned or handed over to other criminal groups where they are subject to kidnapping, sexual abuse or human trafficking.

The project, in collaboration with ECAP (Equipo de Estudios Comunitarios y Acción Psicosocial), trains and strengthens local groups and migration committees in the districts of Chimaltenango and Huehuetenango, with the participation of adult women affected by migration and young people at risk of migration. Training topics include human rights, migration, and gender equality.

Participants are expected to become spokespersons for the defense of migrants' rights, provide information on safe routes and the resolution of migration problems, promote the reporting of human rights violations, and participate in the formulation of public migration policies, including the migration law and the search for missing migrants.


As part of the project ECAP accompany the beneficiaries with various economic initiatives to promote rooting and achieve better management of the remittances received.

The local population of the region where the project is implemented has a cultural heritage with knowledge of handicrafts, gastronomy and agriculture. In the case of the committees, the focus is on marketing the produced products. The women's groups focus on improving their handicraft production and on food security activities.

In the case of the young people, economic and/or socio-cultural alternatives are encouraged in order to strengthen their roots in the community.


Within the framework of this project, and in view of the migratory situation in Guatemala, ECAP wishes to raise the issue of forced internal displacement in the national public agenda and will place the topic in the Latin American Block on Migration as a priority.

At the end of this project it is expected to have positioned the topic in the media in order to achieve a massive diffusion.


Project Strengthening community work with a human rights and gender perspective in contexts of migration and forced displacement in Chimaltenango and Huehuetenango.
Place/Region Guatemala Huehuetenango: Municipalities of Nentón and communities of Chacula and El Aguacate. Chimaltenango: Communities of San Martín Jilotepeque, El Molino, Xesuj Los Pinos
Partner Equipo de Estudios Comunitarios y Acción Psicosocial (ECAP)
Target group 980 people
  • Strengthen the knowledge for an informed migration decision.
  • Promote safe migration and prevention of risk factors along the journey through Mexico.
  • Strengthen community structures to respond effectively to the impacts of migration
  • Assisting family members in resolving cases of missing migrants
  • Advocacy and lobbying at local and national level
Duration 2022-2024
Budget 80.000€ annually
Sponsor BMZ (Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, Germany)

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