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  • Central American migrants walk along the highway near the border with Guatemala, as they continue their journey trying to reach the U.S., in Tapachula, Mexico October 21, 2018.

    Central American migrants walk along the highway near the border with Guatemala, as they continue their journey trying to reach the U.S., in Tapachula, Mexico October 21, 2018. | Photo: Reuters

Published 16 October 2019
Opinion

The renewal of aid comes after the U.S. pressured El Salvador (Sept. 20), Guatemala (July 26), and Honduras (Sept. 25) to sign safe-third country type-deals. 

The United States restored economic aid to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras Wednesday that had been cut off after the Trump administration complained the three Central American countries had done too little to halt a surge in migration.

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“Guatemala, Honduras & El Salvador have all signed historic Asylum Cooperation Agreements...the U.S. will shortly be approving targeted assistance in the areas of law enforcement and security,” U.S President Donald Trump tweeted.

Back in June congressional aides affirmed the administration told them US$370 million in aid to Central America, that lawmakers had approved for fiscal 2018, would be relocated, and that an additional US$180 million for fiscal 2017 would be suspended. In March, Trump warned his administration would cut these funds. 

The renewal of aid comes after the U.S. pressured El Salvador (Sept. 20), Guatemala (July 26), and Honduras (Sept. 25) to sign safe-third country type-deals. 

Under this sort of agreement, President Donald Trump’s administration will fully enforce a new rule that would curtail asylum applications at the U.S.-Mexico border, requiring migrants to first attempt international protection in a safe third country.

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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Honduras Signs Safe Third Country-Type Deal with US

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.

With the new arrangments pushed by Trump, the North American nation can now shift the burden onto other countries like Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala or Mexico, as asylum hearings can take months or even years. 

Human rights organizations and migration advocates argue that sending people seeking asylum back to the region where they fled, even if not to their home country, violates international commitments meant to prevent vulnerable migrants from being returned to danger, especially to countries known for drug and gang-related violence. 

Honduras had a homicide rate of 40 per 100,000 people in 2017, while Guatemala's was 22.4 per 100,000 inhabitants, among the highest in the Western Hemisphere, according to InSight Crime.
 
Even the U.S. government admits the dangers present in those countries. The State Department's travel advisory for Honduras warns of "violent crime, such as homicide and armed robbery, is common...violent gang activity, such as extortion, violent street crime, rape, and narcotics and human trafficking, is widespread.”

While Guatemala “remains among the most dangerous countries in the world,” with an “alarmingly high murder rate.”

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