Under US pressure, Guatemala agrees to accept asylum requests

World Today

Washington has reached an agreement with Guatemala that could reduce asylum requests in the U.S. But activists in both countries are vowing to fight the plan.

They said Guatemala doesn’t have the resources to handle applicants.

CGTN’s Toby Muse explains.

The U.S. is calling the deal signed Friday in Washington a “safe third country” agreement, meaning that migrants from El Salvador and Honduras who want asylum in the U.S. must first seek asylum in Guatemala, instead of at the U.S. border.

The U.S. said the new deal will cut down the numbers of migrants showing up at the border, and protect migrants from Central America who are frequently victimized by cartels and human-smugglers.

“This landmark agreement will put the coyotes and the smugglers out of business,” declared U.S. President Donald Trump. “These are bad people. These are very, very bad, very sick, deranged people who make a lot of money off other people’s miseries. It’s going to provide safety for legitimate asylum seekers and stop asylum fraud and abuses system.”

Trump had threatened Guatemala with sanctions if no deal was reached. However, activists said Guatemala does not meet the “safe third country” standard; overwhelmed by poverty and crime, they argue, it cannot guarantee protection to migrants.

“Guatemala is not responding to its citizens on health, education, jobs, feeding,” said Gabriela Davila of Positive Organizations ONG

As part of the deal, the U.S. will facilitate temporary agricultural work visas for Guatemalan laborers.

Friday also saw the Supreme Court rule that the U.S. government can go ahead with a Trump plan to divert $2.5 billion from the military to pay for part of the construction of a wall along the southern border. Democrats strongly oppose such a wall.

During his election campaign, Trump repeatedly promised a wall along the border – and said Mexico would pay for it.