The immigration agreement between Guatemala and the US, temporarily suspended due to the coronavirus, represents a “dead end” for human rights, according to a report published Wednesday.
The agreement, signed last year between the US and the government of former Guatemalan president Jimmy Morales, allows asylum seekers from third countries — mainly Honduras and El Salvador — to be sent to Guatemala to apply for asylum there instead.
“These vulnerable asylum seekers are not permitted access to a lawyer, they have no ability to present evidence, and in some cases, no knowledge that the US government is removing them to Guatemala,” the report, published by Georgetown Law’s Human Rights Institute and titled Dead End, said.
During a virtual presentation one of the report authors, Claire McMullen, said that the 932 people sent to Guatemala under the immigration policy have been subjected to a process that violates their human rights and does not sufficiently protect them from returning to the danger they had originally fled.
The report is the result of 50 interviews conducted in Guatemala City at the start of the year with asylum seekers, Guatemalan officials, civil servants, lawyers, and journalists.
The report authors found that all the documents presented to migrants were in English. Some of the asylum seekers were woken up in the middle of the night to sign documents they did not understand before being removed from the US.
According to the report, after their detention in the US, migrants often arrived in Guatemala confused, exhausted, and disoriented. Once in Guatemala, they were given no protection, and the government failed to provide adequate information or assistance.
“Many asylum seekers,” the report concluded, “viewed Guatemala as presenting similar or heightened risks of persecution or torture, or threats to their life, than those which they faced in their country of origin.”