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  • The new measure will mostly affect families and children traveling alone through Central America.

    The new measure will mostly affect families and children traveling alone through Central America. | Photo: Reuters

Published 15 July 2019
Opinion

It “will affect all those who reach our southern land border but may have fled from anywhere in the world. It does nothing to fix our broken migration system,” a DHS official said.

The United States Departments of Justice and Homeland Security issued Monday a joint rule that blocks all migrants from applying for asylum at the southern border, requiring them first to attempt international protection in a safe third country.

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It “will affect all those who reach our southern land border but may have fled from anywhere in the world. It does nothing to fix our broken migration system,” a DHS official told BuzzFeed. Designated an “interim final rule,” the measure goes into effect on Tuesday.

According to the 1951 Refugee Convention, which is a binding document for all the United Nations members, a country like the U.S. can refuse to grant refuge to asylum seekers and send them to a country that is considered "safe" to their lives. Canada struck a pact of those characteristics back in 2002.

This means the North American nation can shift the burden onto other countries potentially sending Salvadorian and Honduran asylum seekers to Guatemala or Mexico. However, those governments have already refused to become a ‘safe third country’. 

On Sunday, Guatemala's Constitutional Court granted a provisional ruling preventing that the country would be turned into a safe third country for migrants, taking the power from right-wing President Jimmy Morales to sign such order. 

While, back in June, as trade talks related to migration were held between the U.S. and Mexico, Mexican Foreign Affairs Minister Marcelo Ebrard categorically rejected the possibility that Mexico would subscribe to a safe third country asylum pact with the U.S. 

Although it has intensified its anti-migration policies, deploying over 20,000 soldiers to both its northern and southern borders to curb migration. The Mexican government reported that from December 2018 to May 2019 about 80,000 people have been arrested and deported to their countries of origin.

The American Civil Liberties Union called the new rule “patently unlawful” and vowed to file a lawsuit against it, while a host of experts also questioned its legality. 

While the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said it was “deeply concerned” as the rule would “put vulnerable families at risk” and undermine international efforts to find a coordinated solution.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is currently detaining more than 50,000 migrants a day, most of them are asylum seekers protected by international law, escaping political persecution, gang and drug-related violence. 

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