Guatemala: Completely Unsafe for Asylum Seekers

  on July 27, 2019

The Trump Administration has initiated another devastating attack on the U.S. asylum system. The agreement signed yesterday between the U.S. and Guatemalan governments will force asylum seekers from Honduras and El Salvador to pursue safety in Guatemala, even though Guatemala is utterly unable to protect them from persecution. Those forced to seek asylum in Guatemala will face persecution and an asylum system that has almost no capacity to handle their cases. KIND rejects this agreement as outrageous, irresponsible, and illegal.

Gangs, drug cartels, and other organized criminal groups pervade Guatemala’s cities, and increasingly  rural areas. Gangs use robbery, extortion, forced recruitment, and sexual violence to control the territories in which they operate. Gang members frequently force girls and young women into sexual relationships; resistance can lead to violent retribution or even death. Salvadorans and Hondurans fleeing gangs in their own countries will be easily hunted down in Guatemala by those they seek to escape.

LGBTI individuals escaping persecution in El Salvador and Honduras will endure more of the same in Guatemala, where violence and discrimination against them runs rampant. Women and girls seeking protection in Guatemala will face a country where more than 100 incidents of violence against women are reported each day, and where over 60 percent of victims of sexual violence are girls under the age of 18.

Indigenous Hondurans fleeing persecution will face the same or worse in Guatemala, a country plagued by discrimination and violence against its own majority indigenous peoples.

Honduran and Salvadoran asylum seekers targeted for harm cannot expect protection or justice from Guatemala. With a staggering impunity rate of over 90 percent, it is no surprise that 30,000 Guatemalans sought protection in the United States 2018, or that nearly 100,000 Guatemalans have pending asylum claims globally.

Guatemala’s tiny asylum system is no match for the 60,000 Hondurans and Salvadorans who filed claims in the United States in 2018. With three asylum officers in the entire country to interview applicants, only 300 asylum cases filed in 2018, and zero cases approved for over an entire year, the idea that Guatemala can provide protection is laughable. Guatemala’s system would collapse if faced with these numbers. The U.S. Department of State has even criticized Guatemala’s asylum system for being “inadequate.”

This agreement seeks to achieve one thing only—to deny Salvadoran and Honduran refugees access to the U.S. asylum system. People, including children, will not be protected. Asylum seekers will be sent to Guatemala to face violence and possibly death. This agreement flies in the face of U.S. obligations to ensure access to protection. It is a blight on our nation’s moral fabric.

KIND calls on the governments of the United States and Guatemala to immediately recall this dangerous agreement and to ensure meaningful access to protection for those fleeing harm.

For more information, please contact Megan McKenna, mmckenna@supportkind.org, 202-631-9990.

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