In response to the use of force and tear gas by the Honduran National Police against people seeking to cross to Guatemala at the Corinto border crossing, Vicki Gass, Oxfam America Senior Policy Advisor for Central America and Mexico, made the following statement:
“Oxfam strongly condemns the use of force and tear gas by the Honduran National Police to prevent migrants from crossing into Guatemala. The use of force against unarmed and innocent people seeking a better life is inexcusable. Oxfam urges all governments to respect the rights of people on the move including the right to leave their countries of origin, uphold the principle of non-refoulement as required under international law, and defend the right to asylum. Honduras has an obligation to abide by the Central America-4 Free Mobility Agreement, which provides for the free movement of citizens of El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Guatemala between those four countries.
Unable to live safely in their own country, these migrants are seeking opportunities for themselves and their families to survive and thrive. Rather than criminalizing and demonizing them, the US and governments in the region must address the root causes forcing these families to flee and must protect people in transit, in the shelters, and in the event of their potential return. The governments should remember that repression such as that on display at the Guatemala-Honduras border, besides violating the rights of migrants, has been totally ineffective in resolving the structural problems that the Central American countries face.
This latest caravan demonstrates that these Central American countries do not meet the conditions and requirements to be considered a “safe third country” for those seeking asylum in the US; they cannot guarantee the safety of their own citizens, let along process asylum petitions or protect asylum seekers on their soil. In Honduras, for example, 15 women were assassinated in just the first 14 days of 2020. The bilateral agreements signed between the US and each of the countries in the region, including Mexico, lack legitimacy and violate the rights of asylum seekers. Oxfam calls upon the authorities of all countries to publically disclose the contents of the Asylum Cooperation Agreements (ACA).
Poverty, gender-based and gang violence, pervasive corruption, consecutive years of drought and limited public investment in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala are all known drivers of forced migration. Until these structural issues are addressed, people will continue to flee. Rather than continue to pursue self-serving political agreements at the expense of innocent women, men, and children seeking safety and protection, we urge the Trump administration and governments in the region to instead prioritize addressing the issues at the root causes of forced migration from Central America.”