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Asylum-seekers reaching U.S. border are being flown to Guatemala

Central American migrants, sent from the United States, walk out in the streets of Guatemala City after arriving at the airport on Feb. 13, 2020. When asylum-seekers land in Guatemala, they are processed by immigration and asked if they want to stay in Guatemala or return to their countries. They are given 72 hours to decide.

Oliver de Ros/AP

Hundreds of asylum-seekers who reach the Texas-Mexico border aren’t getting a chance to make their case in U.S. immigration court.

Instead, the migrants — mostly women and children — are put on planes to Guatemala and told to ask for asylum in that country.

Alicia, who asked that we not use her last name, is one of more than 800 migrants from Honduras and El Salvador who have been sent to Guatemala under an Asylum Cooperative Agreement.

After traveling for weeks from Honduras with her teenage son, Alicia said she was floored when a U.S. border official raised the possibility that they would be sent to Guatemala.

“I told him I had nothing to do with Guatemala and that I didn’t know anyone in Guatemala, so what could I possibly do there?” she said.

The interview lasted five minutes, Alicia said. She never got a chance to fully explain why she was seeking protection in the U.S. or that she was trying to reconnect with family.

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Afterward, she and her son waited a week in immigrant detention.

Alicia said the facility was extremely cold, and the guards yelled at them, saying “ugly things.” One morning before sunrise, they were escorted onto a bus headed to a nearby airport.

“We weren’t sure if they were sending us to Guatemala, if they’d send us to Mexico, or if they’d send us to El Salvador or Honduras,” Alicia said. “We had absolutely no clue.”

A life-changing decision

The Trump administration says the Asylum Cooperative Agreement helps drive down the number of migrants asking for asylum in the U.S.

“For the ninth straight month in a row, we’ve continued to make incredible progress along the southwest border,” Mark Morgan, the acting commissioner for Customs and Border Protection, said at a press conference last week.

But critics say the U.S. is sending asylum-seekers back to dangerous places.

In January, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration’s Asylum Cooperative Agreement with Guatemala. The country is grappling with gang violence and economic hardship.

Alicia said she had been threatened by gangs in her home country, and that’s why she and her son left Honduras.

According to the Guatemalan Institute for Migration, some of the flights sending asylum-seekers to Guatemala under this policy are coming from an airport in Brownsville, Texas.

Protesters, such as Joshua Rubin with Witness at the Border, gather every weekday outside the Brownsville-South Padre Island International Airport.

“These people fled a situation, most likely that threatened their lives and we’re flying them back into those places where their lives are in danger,” Rubin said.

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From beyond a chain-link fence, the protesters watch shackled migrants as they are escorted onto planes.

Diane Sonde, an activist from Brooklyn, N.Y., said airport officials have parked vehicles in front of them to block their view and even sent police officers to move them.

“I asked them how they could sleep at night and how would they feel if this was their children and their families,” Sonde said. “They wouldn’t even look us in the eye.”

Once in the air, many of the migrants still don’t know where they’re going, said Charanya Krishnaswami with Amnesty International USA.

“Not even understanding that that’s where you’re going and only realizing it upon landing and that complete lack of orientation, that complete lack of counseling, I think exacerbates existing traumas and creates new ones,” Krishnaswami said.

She recently traveled to Guatemala to document how this agreement is playing out on the ground there. She found disoriented migrants who were given very little time to make a life-changing decision.

“They’re told they have 72 hours to decide whether they want to seek asylum in Guatemala, or whether they want to accept voluntary return,” Krishnaswami said.

“They don’t feel safe there”

Ariana Sawyer, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, also traveled to Guatemala recently, to document how the Asylum Cooperative Agreement is being implemented.

“Nobody I spoke to felt like seeking asylum in Guatemala was a viable option for them,” Sawyer said. “As a result it’s really difficult to locate these people, to keep track of them, to find out what they’re going through, to give them any kind of support because they’re not staying in Guatemala. They don’t feel safe there.”

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Only about 16 migrants have decided to apply for asylum in Guatemala, according to officials there. The others are mostly unaccounted for. Some have gone home, while others, such as Alicia, plan on trekking north again.

Alicia still hopes to make it to the U.S. one day to reunite with family.

“I’m hiding in my country while I try to gather some money to try and return,” she said.

The U.S. wants Guatemala to accept even more migrants. The administration also hopes to start sending migrants back to Honduras under a similar agreement.

Source: https://www.npr.org

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IOM launches open South America portal

International Organisation of Migration (

Buenos Aires – IOM, the International Organization for Migration, this week launched the Open South America Portal, a web platform providing migrants and stakeholders in the region with access to reliable and timely information on human mobility restrictions and health and safety measures adopted by governments in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Open South America, available in SpanishEnglish and Portuguese, shares official information by country on the latest measures, including border restrictions, quarantine requirements and COVID-19 tests for migrants and travellers.

The portal also provides updated information on authorized entry points and key places for travellers and migrants, such as consulates, migrant care and health centres, airports, border crossings points and ports. This information can be explored through an interactive map.

The platform, funded by the IOM Development Fund, is also accessible to vulnerable migrants who may be stranded or are at risk of receiving misinformation on migration.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, South America has been one of the most impacted regions worldwide. According to the World Health Organization figures, as of 8 July 2021 there were 33,475,765 COVID-19 cumulative cases in the region, which represents 89 per cent of the total cases in Latin America, and 18 per cent of all infections recorded globally.

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Countries such as Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador all experienced severe outbreaks. For example, Brazil currently reports the third highest number of cumulative cases (18,855,015) and second highest death toll (526,892) globally.

“Open South America will facilitate orderly, regular and responsible migration in South America amid the uncertain times of COVID-19 and after the pandemic,” said Minister Ana Laura Cachaza, General Director of Consular Affairs of the Government of Argentina.

“Migrants’ access to up-to-date information through innovative online tools is essential considering the changing migration dynamic in the region due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Marcelo Pisani, IOM Regional Director for South America.

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29,000 Nigerians, Ghanaians, Somalians, other Africans migrated through the Mediterranean Sea to Europe in 2021 —IOM

The International Organisation for Migration has said that 29,000 individuals including Nigerians, Ghanaians, Somalians and other Africans have emigrated to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea this year.

About 13,000 were arrested by the coast guards and returned home while 761 migrants were said to have perished in the sea.

Disclosing this to journalists in Abuja on Friday, the Chief of Mission, IOM Nigeria, Mr Franz Celestin, said less than five per cent of migrants usually made it to Europe, adding that the vast majority stay in Africa.

He further said that a lot of migrants were trafficked within the Economic Community of West African States, adding that Mali was the number one destination point for trafficked Nigerian women.

Responding to questions on the number of people who have undertaken the perilous trip to Europe through the Mediterranean, the IOM Chief said, “A combination of unemployment and underemployment is pushing people to migrate.

READ  Over 140 migrants perish in deadliest shipwreck of the year

“In this year, 29,000 migrants from Sub-Sahara Africa have migrated to Europe through the Mediterranean. About 13,000 were intercepted by the coastguard while 761 died.”

International Organisation of Migration (

Celestin stressed the importance of tackling human trafficking which he said grossed about $150 billion annually.

“Traffickers make a lot of money and they would continue to do it until a coordinated response is evolved to stop them. We are collaborating with Interpol in this respect; we are connected to the Interpol i/247 database. We connected the MIDAS to the Interpol database where we pass the information on traffickers to the Interpol,” he stated.

Celestin explained that the IOM has been involved in the biometric registration of children in the North-East, noting that the agency has registered no fewer than 17,053 children in 18 different internally displaced person camps between 2019 and May 2021 in Borno State.

The agency chief also disclosed that IOM was involved in the G7 Famine Prevention and Humanitarian Compact for North-East.

READ  Are Germany and the EU prepared for a new influx of refugees?

 

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FG condemns killing of Nigerian footballer in UK

Kelvin

The Federal government has condemned the alleged killing of a Nigerian Footballer, Kelvin Igweani, by the UK police.

Recall that Igweani, a Nigerian Footballer, was shot dead by officers, who attended a call out to a house, where a child was found with serious injuries.

Reacting, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Chairman/CEO, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), in Abuja on Wednesday described the incident as very unfortunate,and sad.

Dabiri-Erewa condoled with the family of the deceased and the Nigerian communities in the UK while praying that God grants rest to the soul of the departed.

“We call on the UK government for a thorough and proper investigation to be carried out on the incident,” the statement added.

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