The Safe Third Country Agreement with Guatemala: What You Need to Know
In July 2019, the United States signed a Safe Third Country Agreement with Guatemala, which requires migrants seeking asylum in the US to apply for protection in Guatemala first, if they pass through that country on their way to the US. This move has stirred up controversy, with critics arguing that Guatemala is not a safe third country for refugees and asylum seekers.
What is a Safe Third Country Agreement?
A Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) is a bilateral agreement between two countries that requires asylum seekers to apply for protection in the first safe country they arrive in, before seeking asylum in the other country. The concept of STCAs is based on the assumption that refugees and asylum seekers should seek refuge in the first safe country they reach, rather than continue travelling to a preferred destination.
Why did the US sign an STCA with Guatemala?
The Trump administration has been seeking to reduce the number of asylum seekers at the US-Mexico border, and one way to achieve this goal is by signing STCAs with countries in the region. The agreement with Guatemala is part of a broader strategy to create a “safe third country” network in Central America, which would help to deter migrants from travelling to the US for protection.
Does Guatemala qualify as a safe third country?
Many advocates for refugees and immigrants argue that Guatemala is not a safe third country for asylum seekers. The country is known for high levels of violence, political instability, and poverty, which make it difficult for refugees to integrate and thrive. Moreover, the Guatemalan government has limited resources and capacity to provide protection and support to migrants, many of whom are fleeing similar challenges in their home countries.
What does the STCA mean for asylum seekers?
Under the STCA with Guatemala, asylum seekers who pass through Guatemala on their way to the US will be sent back to Guatemala to apply for protection there. This means that many asylum seekers who come from Honduras, El Salvador, and other countries may be forced to stay in Guatemala, where they may face dangers and hardships. Moreover, because of the limited resources and capacity of the Guatemalan government to provide protection and support, many asylum seekers may be denied the help they need.
The STCA with Guatemala is just one of the Trump administration`s efforts to restrict immigration and asylum in the US. While the agreement has been in effect since November 2019, it has faced legal challenges and public opposition. Critics argue that the US should focus on addressing the root causes of migration, such as poverty, violence, and corruption, rather than forcing refugees to seek protection in unsafe countries. As the debate continues, it`s important to stay informed and engaged in issues related to immigration and refugee rights.