‘Guatemala is in no way safe for refugees and asylum seekers…’
(AFP) The United States and Guatemala inked a long-awaited asylum agreement on Friday, days after President Donald Trump threatened tough retaliation against the small Central American country if it did not sign on.
The “safe third country” agreement, requiring U.S.-bound migrants who enter Guatemala to seek asylum there instead, will “provide safety to legitimate asylum seekers and stop asylum fraud,” Trump told reporters.
The country is one of several that previously had been called out for their superficial efforts to combat the influx of illegal immigrants, many of whom use it as a launch pad for their trek north through Mexico.
Some Central American countries, such as Costa Rica and Panama, have tacitly encouraged migrants—some of whom hail from nations that support terrorism—to pass through as quickly as possible, helping oftentimes to bus them to the border.
“This landmark agreement will put the coyotes and smugglers out of business,” the president said, referring to people who have trafficked thousands of migrants through Mexico to the southern U.S. border.
“These are bad people… sick and deranged people,” he said.
Trump blasted Guatemala earlier this week saying it backed out of a deal intended to slow the flow of undocumented migrants into the United States—threatening to retaliate against the country with a travel ban, tariffs, remittance fees or “all of the above.”
Friday’s agreement, signed in the Oval Office by Guatemala’s interior minister, Enrique Degenhart, and U.S. Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, would likely apply to Salvadoran or Honduran migrants passing through Guatemala toward the United States.
It was not immediately clear how the agreement signed Friday would jibe with a provision of Guatemala’s constitutional court, which recently blocked the idea of a deal making Guatemala a “safe third country” for asylum requests.
The non-governmental organization Refugees International called the deal “very alarming” and said it would put “some of the most vulnerable people in Central America in grave danger.”
“Guatemala is in no way safe for refugees and asylum seekers,” the group’s president Eric Schwartz said in a statement.
“Such an arrangement would make a mockery of the notion that those fleeing persecution in Central America have any recourse.”
© Agence France-Presse