In reaction to the US-Guatemala agreement to designate Guatemala as a safe third country to process asylum claims, Vicki Gass, Oxfam America Senior Policy Advisor for Central America and Mexico, made the following statement:
“Oxfam rejects outright the designation of Guatemala as a safe third country to process migrants seeking asylum. Guatemala simply cannot be a safe third country when its own citizens are fleeing the same dire conditions driving Hondurans and Salvadorans to seek asylum.
“This agreement is a complete abdication of the United States’ legal and moral responsibilities and a dangerous offshoring of immigration enforcement. It is also a violation of US and international law: there is no legal requirement requiring people fleeing unconscionable conditions to seek asylum in the first country they enter. Seeking asylum on US soil is a right and must be upheld.
“It is ludicrous and dangerous to think the same government that lacks the political will to address the basic needs of its own people will be able to process asylum petitions or protect asylum seekers on its soil. Guatemala cannot even guarantee the safety of its own citizens: in 2019 alone, 235,000 Guatemalans have fled the country in search of safety and security. Guatemala is well-known for having some of the highest levels of violence, poverty, and inequality in the region, and the third highest femicide rate in the world – grim indicators even acknowledged by the State Department’s most recent human rights report. Endemic corruption at the highest levels of government limits Guatemalan institutions from solving the social and economic problems forcing its own people to flee.
“This agreement also means asylum seekers also risk being deported back to the countries from which they fled. Rather than pursue self-serving political agreements at the expense of innocent women, men, and children seeking safety and protection, we urge the US and Guatemalan governments to uphold their legal responsibilities, guarantee the rights of all asylum-seekers, and instead prioritize addressing the issues at the root causes of forced migration from Central America.”