by Christopher Rails TWO representatives from ASESAH, the Salvadorean Ecumenical Association for Service and Humanitarian Aid, were in London this week to give up to date information on the plight of the thousands of refugees who have fled from the terrorism sweeping the country.
ASESAH was created at the endof last year out of two separate but complementary groups. the predominantly
Catholic Salvadorean Ecumenical committee and the predominantly Protestant Ecumenical Committee for Humanitarian Aid.
They said repressive measures have been taken against refugees. and against people and institutions granting them assistance. Up to March this year. 67 cases of intimidation against refugee centres have been reported, including six murders. 12 kidnappings of refugees and one military occupation of a camp. 53 of these acts were committed by the army.
. Refugee centres have been established in Cinquera, San Estaban Catarina, Santa Tecla and La Bermuda, though the last named centre was destroyed by the army in the summer. and the refugees w ere moved to the military garrison of Suchitoto where they live in concentration camp conditions.
The majority of refugees are in centres in the country's interior, but there are 10 refugee camps in the capital, San Salvador. occupied mainly by old people. children and the sick.
According to ASESAH. the recent "white paper" produced by the United States State Department led to campaigns to discredit their organisation.
But other US based organisations, they said, attested to the real situation in ElSalvador. Three members of a US fact-finding mission visited refugee centres on the ElSalvador-Honduras border last January. and heard of atrocities committed systematically by the Salvadorean army. Salvadorean women spoke of rape. the murder of children, and worst of all, "abortion by kicking". in which a foetus is torn from the womb of a pregnant woman and killed.
The major problem in the centres is overcrowding. which results in dehumanisation and transmission of disease.
The general situation in El Salvador is getting worse. said the \SESAH representatives, with an average of 20 people killed every day. From January to June 1981 9,250 people were assassinated. according to the Archdiocesan Legal Aid Office in San Salvador. This is a monthly average of 1,540 people. In the two years of the present go*rnment, 35,000 people have been killed.
In last Sunday's homily. Bishop Rivera James of San Salvador denied that Catholic groups were aiding leftist guerillas. and said there had been no reply to his repeated requests that Catholic relief organisations be allowed into battle zones to bring food, medicines and other supplies to non-combatants.