According to a new report from Fox News, migrant right and humanitarian groups were “horrified” by the announcement that the Trump administration has begun sending migrants to Guatemala.
Migrant right groups worry of the country’s reputation of being marred with violence.
In El Paso, the Trump administration is piloting:
Mexicans seeking asylum in the US having less time to prepare their immigration cases (a way to quickly deport)
A similar program for non-Mexicans barred from asylum (also to quickly deport)
Asylum-seekers deported to Guatemala
— Hamed Aleaziz (@Haleaziz) November 21, 2019
Per Buzzfeed, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said it had serious concerns about the implementation of the policy.
“It is an approach at variance with international law that could result in the transfer of highly vulnerable individuals to countries where they may face life-threatening dangers” a statement from the UN’s refugee agency said. UNHCR has been cited by DHS officials as a partner in helping build up the nascent asylum system in Guatemala.
Guatemala is one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere and has the sixth-highest rate of malnutrition in the world. Nearly half of the country suffers from chronic malnutrition, with the prevalence reaching about 70% in some indigenous areas, according to a 2018 report from USAID.
The country has struggled with violence but has seen a drop in murders in recent years, with a homicide rate of 22.4 per 100,000 people. By comparison, the US had a homicide rate of 5.3 per 100,000.
Fox News reports the Trump administration on Thursday announced that it has started to send migrants to Guatemala as part of its “safe third country” agreement with the Central American nation — a boost for the administration’s effort to enlist other countries’ help dealing with the migrant crisis.
An initial flight landed in Guatemala Thursday morning. The move is part of a “phased-in” approach to sending migrants mainly from Honduras and El Salvador to the Central American country, having established that its asylum policies meet the criteria of having a “full and fair” asylum system.
The agreement, negotiated earlier this year, is part of a series of regional agreements with countries including Mexico and El Salvador.
“We continue to work on asylum agreement implementation plans with all three Central American countries,” acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf said in a statement to Fox News.
“For Guatemala specifically, we have begun a phased-in implementation approach, which includes sending an initial flight,” he said. “[The Department of Homeland Security], alongside the State Department, will continue to work with the Government of Guatemala and international organizations as we expand the program in the weeks and months ahead.”
DHS would not confirm operational details on how many migrants were on the plane, but a DHS official told Fox News that being moved to Guatemala was an option for migrants and that no one would be sent to the country against their will.
Migrants who are seeking asylum at the southern border will be given the option to be sent to Guatemala, sent back to their home country, or to enter the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) and wait in Mexico.
Migrant rights and humanitarian groups reacted with horror to the move, saying that it will potentially send migrants into a country marred by violence. The U.N. refugee agency said in a statement this week that it has “serious concerns” about the policy.