Returnees enter La Chacra after arriving via bus from Mexico. Photo by: Teresa Welsh / Devex

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — Bright orange plastic chairs sit empty in neat rows in the fluorescently lit waiting room.

In a few hours, they’ll be full of returning Salvadorans, arriving via federal flight from the United States or via bus from Mexico. Some will arrive in chef’s uniforms, having been taken into custody while on the job. Others will arrive in filthy clothes without shoes, showing physical scars obtained on a weeks-long journey north hiking through deserts and fording rivers.

Join Devex on the ground in El Salvador to see how the reception center works.

Regardless of where they came from or how long they were gone, the Salvadoran government is receiving them here in San Salvador, at the country’s only reception center for returnees. The facility, formally the Dirección de Atención al Migrante, is known more commonly by the neighborhood in which it is located, La Chacra.

Following the unaccompanied minor crisis in 2014 that saw tens of thousands of Central American children migrate north, the following year La Chacra was overhauled to better serve Salvadorans, who are returning to their country of origin. The changes were Salvadoran-led, with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development and the International Organization for Migration, and the facility is now a regional model for how countries should receive and process returnees.

Read the rest of the visual story here.

About the author

  • Teresa Welsh

    Teresa Welsh has reported from more than 10 countries and is currently based in Washington, D.C. Her coverage focuses on Latin America; U.S. foreign assistance policy; fragile states; food systems and nutrition; and refugees and migration. Prior to joining Devex, Teresa worked at McClatchy's Washington Bureau and covered foreign affairs for U.S. News and World Report. She was a reporter in Colombia, where she previously lived teaching English. Teresa earned bachelor of arts degrees in journalism and Latin American studies from the University of Wisconsin.

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