March 8, 2021

The United States and Guatemala sign an agreement that will restrict asylum claims



The governments of the United States and Guatemala signed an agreement on Friday that will force most of the migrants who cross the Central American country to request asylum there, instead of in the United States.

By surprise, on Friday afternoon, US President Donald Trump asked the press to enter the Oval Office of the White House to witness the signing of the pact with Guatemala, a ceremony attended by the Guatemalan Minister of Interior Enrique Degenhart

"We have been dealing with this for many years with Guatemala and other countries. Now we are at a point where we get along and do what we ask them to do. I think it will be a great thing for Guatemala, they also don't want to those problems, "Trump said.

For his part, the president of Guatemala, Jimmy Morales, said that the agreement prevents Trump's threats on import tariffs and remittance taxes from coming true.

"The negotiations also avoid drastic sanctions for Guatemala, many of them aimed at hitting the economy strongly, such as levies on remittances," as well as "the imposition of tariffs on our export products and immigration restrictions," Morales said. in social networks.

The agreement, made public by the Guatemalan Government, does not mention the term "safe third country", an expression that the UN Refugee Agency uses to designate those nations where refugees who are planning to relocate to another destination are relocated.

Under the agreement, asylum seekers arriving in the US They will be sent back to Guatemala if, on their northbound route, they have crossed the Central American country before arriving in the United States.

Instead of returning to their countries of origin, those migrants who arrive in the US They will be returned to Guatemala.

The text, however, makes exceptions: they may request asylum in the US. those who, despite having passed through Guatemala, are considered "unaccompanied minors" or are individuals who already have a US visa or come from countries that do not need that document to enter US territory.

The agreement will be valid for two years and may be renewed before its expiration.

In a telephone press conference, the interim secretary of National Security of the United States, Kevin McAleenan, assured that the agreement "will be in operation in August", once the two governments have completed a series of steps to ratify it.

In Guatemala, it is not clear how the pact will be implemented since last July 14 the Constitutional Court (CC) granted a provisional protection so that that country does not become a safe third country, a decision that has been appealed by the Guatemalan president.

Meanwhile in the US, several refugee organizations have already promised that, if the agreement is approved, they would try to block it in court.

Shortly after the announcement, several NGOs, such as Amnesty International (AI), criticized the agreement considering that Guatemala is a dangerous country for refugees and asylum seekers.

In fact, the State Department itself asks US citizens to reconsider traveling to various areas of Guatemala and, on its website, warns that violent crimes "are common", gang activity "is widespread" and, in addition , the police have no resources.

Other NGOs have questioned Guatemala's ability to process the thousands of asylum claims that, if the agreement is implemented, they will receive from countries such as Honduras and El Salvador.

In this regard, in the agreement, the US commits to "cooperate to strengthen the institutional capacities of Guatemala", but the text does not include funds for that point.

It is still unknown how this new policy will be implemented. The agreement does not apply to Guatemalans or stateless persons residing in Guatemala, but does not establish what the US will do. with the nationals of that country that arrive to their territory to request asylum.

This year, for the first time in history, Guatemalan nationals have been the most frequently arrested group of citizens after trying to cross the US-Mexico border irregularly.

The agreement signed today is part of the Trump Administration's attempts to reduce migration to the United States.

In early June, Trump tried to have Mexico sign an agreement to become a "safe third country," but López Obrador's government rejected it.

However, the Mexican president ended up agreeing to welcome in Mexico migrants who are waiting to resolve their asylum request in the United States.

Beatriz Pascual and Patricia Pernas

. (tagsToTranslate) United (t) Guatemala (t) agreement (t) will restrict (t) requests



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