US Sending Asylum Seekers To Guatemala Without Telling Them Where They’re Going
The Trump administration is shipping Honduran and Salvadoran asylum seekers who arrive at the U.S. border to a “safe third country” to seek refuge there, but most of the migrants are being pushed onto planes without being told where they are going or what to do next, according to The Washington Post.
When migrants land in Guatemala City, they received little information about applying for asylum in one of the hemisphere’s poorest countries. Those that don’t immediately apply must leave the country within 72 hours.
“In the U.S., the agents told us our cases would be transferred, but they didn’t say where. Then they lined us up to get on the plane,” said a woman named Marta, 43, from Honduras. She sat in a migrant shelter with her 17-year-old son who nursed a gunshot wound in his left cheek, the work of a Honduran faction of the MS-13 gang.
“When we looked out the window, we were here,” she said. “We thought, ‘Where are we? What are we supposed to do now?’”
Human rights organizations in Guatemala say they have recorded dozens of cases of asylum seekers who were misled by U.S. officials into boarding flights. Furthermore, President Trump called the effort to remake the U.S. asylum system “terrific for [Guatemala] and terrific for us,” despite Guatemala being the largest source of migrants detained at the U.S. border in fiscal year 2019, at more than 264,000.
“It’s a total disaster,” said Thelma Shau, who has observed the arrival of asylum seekers at La Aurora International Airport.
The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees is not participating in the program, but officials are aware of the problems.
“UNHCR has a number of concerns regarding the Asylum Cooperation Agreement and its implementation,” said Sibylla Brodzinsky, UNHCR’s regional spokeswoman for Central America and Mexico. “We have expressed these concerns to the relevant U.S. and Guatemalan authorities.
“Why would they send us to a country where the same gangs are operating?” asked Marta, who has frequently been ignored by U.S. immigration officials despite having a saved video on her phone of her son being tortured by MS-13 gang members.
“They weren’t interested,” she said. “They just kept saying that your case will be transferred to an institution that can handle it.”