WASHINGTON, D.C. — El Salvador is one of world’s most dangerous countries; the Trump Administration’s agreement with it will ensure that more children seeking safety are sent there. Asylum seekers, including children, who pass through El Salvador to seek protection in the United States may be forced to seek safe haven in a country with little safety. In addition, asylum seekers from El Salvador will be unable to seek asylum in the United States and will be sent to Guatemala—a country that has almost no capacity to handle asylum cases and that is unable to protect many of its own citizens from persecution.
“This agreement is exceptionally cruel and will result in grave harm and likely death of children,” said KIND President Wendy Young. “The danger to children and families cannot be understated.”
El Salvador has one of the highest rates of femicide in Latin America. According to a 2017 study, 67.4 percent of women and girls in El Salvador report having experienced gender-based violence at some point in their lifetimes, and 40 percent report having experienced sexual violence. Actual numbers are probably significantly higher because women and girls often do not report due to fear and shame, threats of retribution, and lack of confidence that authorities would believe them.
More than 33,000 El Salvadorans came to the U.S. to seek asylum in 2018, and nearly 60,000 worldwide. The asylum system in El Salvador is nearly non-existent. About 70 people sought asylum in El Salvador in 2018. Calling El Salvador a safe haven does not make it one.
Asylum seekers from El Salvador who are sent to Guatemala will face the gangs and other organized criminal groups that pervade Guatemala’s cities, and increasingly rural areas. Gangs use robbery, extortion, forced recruitment, and sexual violence to control their territories. Gang members frequently force girls and young women into sexual relationships; resistance can lead to violent retribution or even death. 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.
This latest agreement follows a recently issued asylum rule under which asylum seekers, including unaccompanied children, who pass through another country prior to reaching the United States are barred from asylum in the United States.
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