On Monday the 6th of January, the United States’ government released a public email detailing a new ruling that will see those seeking asylum into the U.S. from Mexico sent to Guatemala as part of a controversial ‘secure third country’ deal. This is in addition to deals signed last year between the Trump administration and the governments of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, which will allow the U.S. to direct asylum seekers originating from these Central American countries to Guatemala for processing.
The ‘safe third country-style’ deal was signed in July of 2019 by outgoing Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales, who denied the deal he signed would include Mexican Asylum seekers. While the Mexican government has accepted the “jurisdiction of the United States,” they have rejected the deal and are looking “to offer better options for those [Mexican asylum seekers] who would be affected by this decision.” Reuters has also reported that Guatemalan President-elect Alejandro Giammattei, who takes office this month, said that he will review the agreement.
These comments have come alongside many critics views that Guatemala would pose a further risk to the safety of asylum seekers, as the murder rate in Guatemala is five times higher than that of the U.S., according to 2017 data compiled by the World Bank. The UNHCR is one of these critics who has advised that the conditions in Guatemala are not suitable to be a “safe third country” for asylum seekers. As reported by BBC Latina “many face the risk of assault, kidnapping and sexual abuses.”
The actions taken by the U.S. government are deplorable and appalling. They do not abide by the Declaration of Human Rights, whereby it stipulates that “Everyone has the right to seek and enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.” This decision by the U.S. will lead to unsafe asylum in a country which does not have the capacity to safely provide refuge for these people. Alejandra Mena, a spokeswoman for Guatemala’s immigration institute, said that since the agreement was implemented in November only six have applied for asylum in Guatemala out of the 52 migrants sent from the U.S. Thus showing that those asylum seekers who have been moved do not wish to be permanently relocated to Guatemala.
Over the past few years, the conditions in some regions of Central America and Mexico have been increasingly unlivable as violence and drug-related crime continue to increase to horrendous levels. Due to these strenuous conditions, there has been a mass exodus of Central Americans and Mexicans from their countries in an effort to seek asylum in the U.S. This new ruling comes in a time where the Trump administration is trying to aggressively curtail this movement. It has been seen as a new move by President Trump as he attempts to ramp up support from home for the 2020 elections set to take place later this year.
The future for those seeking asylum in the U.S. looks quite bleak, as reported by Al Jazeera, one Mexican Woman seeking asylum described the new policy as pressure aimed at making people like her give up her asylum claim. This is exactly what the U.S. government aims to do through their new ruling as they look to decrease the inflow of those seeking refuge. The Mexican government are looking to broker a deal which will exempt Mexican asylum seekers from being sent to Guatemala. While this is being done, however, the Mexican Chancellery stated that “(the deal) would affect around 900 applicants from February.”