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Press Release: Trump Administration Forces Asylum Seekers to Return to Danger in Central America, Turns a Blind Eye to Deepening Corruption in Guatemala & Honduras

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Contact:
Antonio Saadipour, Program Assistant
(202) 546-7010 | 
asaadipour@lawg.org

December 5, 2019

LAWG: Trump Administration Forces Asylum Seekers to Return to Danger in Central America, Turns a Blind Eye to Deepening Corruption in Guatemala & Honduras

Washington D.C.– Today, the Latin America Working Group (LAWG) releases two reports that document the Trump Administration’s flawed approach to addressing the Central American refugee crisis. By forcing asylum seekers to return to danger under the safe third country agreements signed with Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, the administration will only further trap families, men, women, and children in precarious conditions without any meaningful access to protection.This focus on shutting the door to refugees from the region is almost exclusively driving diplomacy to the Central America region. Concerns for corruption and rights violations are largely sidelined —even though corruption and rights violations are some of the very drivers of forced migration from the region, particularly in Guatemala and Honduras.

As of today, a small number of asylum seekers have already been forcibly returned to Guatemala under the first implementation of one of the three safe third country agreements. However, a newly published “interim final rule” marks the future implementation of all three of the agreements and the potential for many more asylum seekers to be forcibly returned to danger across Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. In the Forced Return to Danger report, LAWG and other civil society organizations outline the disturbing impacts of the agreements on asylum seekers’ protection and well-being, and the likelihood that they will violate U.S. and international refugee law. The memo highlights the ways in which the agreements completely ignore the distinct but concerning realities that fuel forced migration and displacement of thousands of individuals from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.

“Like the other ways the Trump Administration is currently blocking access to asylum at our border or forcing asylum seekers to remain in Mexico, the safe third country agreements with Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador are just a sham and cruel process with only one goal–to turn away asylum seekers from our border and forcibly return them to danger. We are deeply concerned by the potential of these agreements to violate international refugee law, overwhelm existing systems in the region, and urge DHS to rescind the agreements immediately. We call on Congress to oppose the implementation of these flawed agreements,” states Daniella Burgi-Palomino, co-director for the Latin America Working Group.

The second report, Making Way for Corruption, details how in Guatemala and Honduras, corrupt officials in executive branches and legislatures are putting into place laws and policies to limit oversight and action by judicial authorities, human rights defenders, civil society activists, and journalists to expose and protest abuses, while sweeping away obstacles to their own corruption.  “The Trump Administration is rewarding Guatemala and Honduras for cooperating on these unworkable agreements while failing to act decisively against the corruption and human rights abuses that are driving forced migration,” said Lisa Haugaard, co-director of the Latin America Working Group.

To read the full reports:

Making Way for Corruption in Guatemala and Honduras, Dec. 2019

Forced Return to Danger: Civil Society Concerns with the Agreements Signed between the United States and Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, Dec. 2019