Sunday 16 May 2021

U.S. eliminates ‘safe third country’ agreement with Guatemala for asylum seekers

Guatemala's Foreign Ministry reveals notification and undertakes to promote security measures to prevent irregular migration

Q24N –  Guatemala reported Friday that Washington notified it that it will end an agreement that forced the Central American country to receive migrants seeking asylum in the United States and await the resolution of the Washington authorities.

According to data from international organizations, at least half a million Guatemalans, Hondurans and Salvadorans migrate annually to the United States.

In a statement, the Guatemalan government stated that the State Department had been informed of the US decision, thus terminating the Asylum Cooperation Agreement (ACA) with Guatemala, signed in July 2019 by the administration of former President Donald Trump and Guatemalan president at the time, Jimmy Morales (2016-2020).

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The Guatemalan government said it “welcomes what was expressed by President Joe Biden” regarding the United States’ commitment to Guatemala and the region, “aimed at maintaining close collaboration and coordination to face together the challenges related to the causes of migration. irregular”.

In the document, Guatemala reaffirmed “its commitment to continue working closely and jointly in the regional and bilateral framework and to promote efforts aimed at guaranteeing the protection of migrants and their rights, especially children and adolescents.”

US President Joe Biden’s decision was “approved” by the government of Guatemalan President Alejandro Giamatti, who has stated that he hopes to “continue close cooperation” on immigration matters.

The Giamatti government expressed its “commitment” to “confronting” with the United States “the challenges related to the causes of irregular migration” as well as the “generation of integrated development” of its population.

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As of February 2020, according to official data, nearly 700 Honduran and Salvadoran immigrants have been deported from the United States to Guatemala under ACA.

Upon arrival in Guatemala by air from the United States, they were taken to the Immigration Institute in Guatemala to determine if they were afraid and to choose one of the three paths: asylum, protection or assistance to return to their country of origin.

In most cases, Hondurans and Salvadorans have returned home.

The government of Alejandro Giammattei ensures that, due to the pandemic, it has stepped up security measures to prevent irregular migration.

A report in the United States Senate published on January 18 asked then-President-elect Biden to terminate “immediately” the ACA.

The asylum agreement sparked various criticisms in Guatemala and the United States at the time of its signing in 2019 but also during its development.

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Human Rights Watch and Refugees International noted in a report released in May 2020 that the agreement “does not meet the standards set forth in US law regarding agreements with safe third countries.”

The ACA allow foreign migrants seeking asylum at the US border to be sent to a “safe third country” to await the resolution of their procedures in those Central American nations. According to the report, the United States “quickly” transferred non-Guatemalan asylum seekers to Guatemala.

In the view of these entities, Guatemala, a country in which 59% of its 16 million people live below the poverty line, was not in a position to “provide effective protection”.

Since 2018, thousands of Central Americans have launched massive caravans, claiming that they are fleeing the poverty and insecurity that they live in their countries of origin.



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