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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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Human trafficking: PJI  urges proper trauma management for returnees

The Pathfinder Justice Initiative (PJI), a Non-Governmental Organisation, has called for proper trauma care for migrant returnees to prevent them from becoming vulnerable to subsequent trafficking.

Evon Benson-Idahosa, the Executive Director, PJI, made the call at a Rehabilitation Workshop for Providers Serving Survivors of Human Trafficking held in Benin on Thursday.

The workshop was organised by PJI and funded by INSighT- Building Capacity to deal with human trafficking and transit routes to Nigeria, Italy and Sweden.

Benson-Idahosa said that a majority of returnee-migrants usually undergo different traumatic situations and needed to be properly rehabilitated before being integrated back into the society. She noted that if the migrant returnees were not properly rehabilitated, they would not be able to put into good use any form of skills acquisition or empowerment received.

“Providers serving survivors should know how to handle traumatised victims because many of them, especially females, have been raped and have gone through horrible experiences during their trafficking journey.

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“The providers should know that there are best practices in terms of handling trafficked victims; they need to use a survivor centred approach to prioritise the needs of the victims,” she said.

She called on the government at all levels to partner more with NGOs on providing best traumatic care for returned migrants in the country.

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How Nigerian-American police officer burst human trafficking syndicate in US

A retried Nigerian American Police officer, Samuel Balogun  narrated how he  burst a human trafficking syndicate that specialized in using minors for prostitution.

“My biggest accomplishment was bursting a human trafficking crime,” Balogun said.

Giving details of how he executed the task,  the dark skinned retired police officer said: “ There was a guy that was using minors for prostitution on the internet.  I have an accent and when I speak people know I am an African. So, I had to go undercover and had to call the guy on the internet.  I said ‘ hey! what is going on, I am in town. I am a truck driver and I want some girls.’ I asked  how old? He said the younger they are, the more money. I said about 15 to 16 years. He said ok.  I asked  how many he could bring and he replied two. He said which hotel was I and I gave the name to him. He told me to hang up and  he called back  the hotel. He subsequently called me and asked if I was there and I said yes. He said he would be there in 20 minutes.

“We were waiting for him to come but he was smart too. He dropped the girls down the street and made them walk to the room. The girls asked how much I was ready to pay and wanted to take off their clothes but I said not yet.  In the next room were officers listening to our conversation. When I make a signal, that means it is time for them to come in. but before you make the signal, you have to make sure they have mentioned the price, they have given the reason why they were there, so it doesn’t look like you are entrapping them.  When I made the signal, the officers burst in and arrested everybody including me.

Thereafter, Balogun said  the police  processed the girls and after that, “they said look, you are minors and we know somebody is pushing you to do this. Now we don’t want to arrest you but tell us how to get to the boss.  The girls cooperated and  made as if they were leaving. When the man pulled up to pick them up, and that was how we arrested  him. That stopped a lot of those crimes.”

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Balogun said he was in Nigeria to bring his wealth of experience to bear on the disturbing security situation in the country. “ I am trying to bring back  my experience as a  police officer in the states to Nigeria. When you look at the #endsars period, the performance of the police was something that hurt my feelings. How can we make it better? How can we make the police job something that people will look with respect  and want to join?”

He hinted that his  security firm is involved in training not only police officers but “ I also train private security companies. I am in touch with a lot of private security companies in Nigeria.  There is another concept which Nigeria is embracing right now.

“It is called community policing. In the states it is called neighbourhood policing or community policing. It works in a way that in every street, there would be a police officer that lives in that neighbourhood.   You get to know the people and the people know you. In some apartments, they will give you a discount just for the police officer to be there because they know once a police officer is living there, the police car is outside and the crime level will reduce. People are more likely to talk to that officer because they know him. They are more able to tell him’ hey we know who committed that crime.’  For every crime, you need people to tell you what happened. You can have all the gadgets but if people are not talking, you can’t solve the crime.”

READ  EU turns its back on migrants in distress

 

He further said: “I am training police officers, security companies and executive protection. What my security company is doing is to free the police officers from attachment to chiefs, politicians and all that.  We train civilians to represent those officers so that they can go back to the street and do their normal jobs.  We have what we call executive protection/training. We have people that follow the president.  We can train you on how to be efficient and sometimes using less force, description tactics.”

Further expatiating on what his security firm does, the soft spoken officer said: “What my company is trying to do is to bring people to the table.  We are trying to train companies that there is a better way of security where we can teach you how to defend yourself, how to prepare for any emergency, and how to use less force. I have a guy, a navy seal that worked for the United States of America. You will be amazed about what he can do. He can disarm you in a minute even when you come with AK 47.    I am also bringing Hostage Negotiation, people that can talk to you when ransom has to be paid. In the US, we call it Hostage Negotiation.  They can talk to these people, and know their psyche. It is a full package. When you come  to my firm, you can see the whole spectrum  and choose.”

As a vastly travelled person, Blagun said: “I travel a lot and in all the African nations is where you see officers with AK 47. They said it is more intimidating. Criminals use AK 47 in America too but we still don’t carry it.  Is that the right weapon for the police officers, I leave that question open. “

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On the attitude of the Nigerian authorities his plans, he said: “I have talked to a lot of people in higher positions. In some places I don’t want to mention, I have got good responses.  My firm has done some things with certain private firms and the police. I have dealt with some highly placed security firms. So, this is not my first time here.  We are   looking at having training in Sheraton around July/August this year. It is going to be a big one. I am bringing a retired FBI agent, a navy seal, a retired marine , myself and may be two other officers.

“This is my country, I am proud of it. I am sad sometimes when you look at the security aspect of it.  With my experience, I am trying to make it a better place.  It has always been my passion to come back home. I am retired and don’t really need to work again. My benefits are okay untill I die.  But why die with all this experience when I can pass it to the next person.”

 

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Hundreds of thousands of people leave Britain due to pandemic

 

Hundreds of thousands of people have left Britain as a fallout  of the pandemic on the economy, according to a study released yesterday.

There is an “unprecedented exodus” of workers born outside Britain, researchers at London’s Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence said.

“It seems that much of the burden of job losses during the pandemic has fallen on non-UK workers and has manifested itself in return migration, rather than unemployment,” said the authors.

The study is based on labour market data.

The trend was particularly notable in London, where one in five residents was born abroad.

The capital’s population has fallen by 700,000, the study said, adding that nationwide, the figure could be more than 1.3 million.

If these numbers are accurate, this is the largest decline in Britain’s population since World War II, according to the study.

No evidence suggests that similar numbers of British people who live abroad are returning to Britain.

However, this could be a temporary trend, the researchers said, noting that workers from abroad might return after the pandemic.

The British economy depends on workers from abroad and it is not only threatened by migration due to the pandemic.

Many industries fear the loss of skilled workers due to Britain’s departure from the European Union and stricter migration laws.

A further trend in 2021 is also causing concern, described as a “baby bust” by consultancy PwC, which said many couples were postponing having children due to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic.

This could lead to the lowest birth rate since 1900, PwC said in early January.

READ  Relief package scandal rocks IDP camps

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