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Hondurans, Salvadorans relive abusive experiences at US border

 

Hondurans and Salvadorans who had been transferred to Guatemala have relived the abusive experiences, insecurity and lack of support at the US borer before their transfer.

The Hondurans and Salvadorans disclosed this in an interview with the Refugees International and Human Rights Watch.

An agreement between the United States and Guatemala effectively compels Salvadoran and Honduran asylum seekers to abandon their claims, Human Rights Watch and Refugees International said today.

The joint report by Refugees International and Human Rights Watch, “Deportation with a Layover: Failure of Protection under the U.S.-Guatemala Asylum Cooperative Agreement,” shows that the U.S.-Guatemala Asylum Cooperative Agreement, or ACA, does not meet the criteria in US law for a Safe Third Country Agreement that would enable Salvadorans and Hondurans to seek asylum in a safe country other than the United States.

Under the agreement, the United States has rapidly transferred non-Guatemalan asylum seekers to Guatemala without allowing them to lodge asylum claims in the United States. Given Guatemala’s inability to provide effective protection and the risk that some transferees face the threat of serious harm either in Guatemala or after returning to their home countries, the United States violates its obligation to examine their asylum claims by implementing the agreement, the report says.

Refugees International and Human Rights Watch interviewed 30 Hondurans and Salvadorans who had been transferred to Guatemala. They described abusive conditions at the US border before their transfer, and danger, insecurity, and a lack of support upon arrival in Guatemala that made them feel pressure to return to their home countries despite fear of what they would face there.

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“All the transferees we interviewed said the U.S. never gave them an opportunity to seek asylum in the United States or to explain why they fled their home countries,” said Ariana Sawyer, US border researcher at Human Rights Watch and one of the report’s authors.

A Salvadoran man said that a U.S. Department of Homeland Security official told him “there is no asylum” and “there are no Central Americans allowed into the United States.” Two women showed Refugees International evidence of abuse by domestic partners—pictures of physical injuries from brutal beatings and a copy of a protective order from a court in El Salvador—that they said US officials at the border refused to let them present in support of their claims of fear of return there.

Those interviewed said that while detained at the U.S. border before their transfer they were denied meaningful access to an attorney and only allowed to make between one and three rushed, non-private phone calls.

They said that when they arrived in Guatemala, they waited hours on the tarmac with no food, water, or adequate medical attention, including for those with small children. The registration process itself took a cursory two-to-three minutes, during which Guatemalan authorities did not provide any information about what would happen to them in Guatemala. Once transferees were registered at the airport, they had 72 hours to make the decision about whether they would remain in Guatemala, return to the countries they fled, or try to find refuge elsewhere.

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“People transferred to Guatemala were thrust into a high-pressure situation in which they lacked adequate time and resources to make truly informed, voluntary choices about what to do,” said Rachel Schmidtke, Latin America advocate for Refugees International and another of the report’s authors.

Those interviewed said they had no family or support networks in Guatemala and that they feared for their safety there because some of the gangs who threatened them had a presence or connections in Guatemala. Many indicated they would return to El Salvador and Honduras despite their fear of persecution there.

“We interviewed people with well-founded fears of persecution who were not allowed to seek asylum in the United States and who believed they could not be protected in Guatemala,” said Yael Schacher, senior U.S. advocate at Refugees International and another of the report’s authors. “The United States has shirked its responsibility and violated its international obligations by transferring people under the ACA.”

Transfers of non-Guatemalans to Guatemala under the agreement were suspended on March 16, 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Before that date, the United States had transferred 939 people to Guatemala. Although local nongovernmental partners for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) found that the vast majority of transferees they interviewed had international protection concerns, only 20, about 2 percent, had applied for asylum in Guatemala.

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The U.S. and Guatemalan governments should rescind the Guatemalan agreement, rather than plan for its resumption, Refugees International and Human Rights Watch said. The United States should also halt plans to begin transferring non-national asylum seekers to El Salvador and Honduras under similar agreements.

 

 

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Netherlands, IOM launch Global Migration Initiative to protect people on the move

COMPASS will provide vulnerable migrants including victims of trafficking and unaccompanied or separated children access to a broad range of protection and assistance services.

 The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands launched the Cooperation on Migration and Partnerships for Sustainable Solutions initiative (COMPASS) at the beginning of 2021. COMPASS is a global initiative, in partnership with 12 countries, designed to protect people on the move, combat human trafficking and smuggling, and support dignified return while promoting sustainable reintegration.

The initiative is centred on a whole-of-society approach which, in addition to assisting individuals, will work across all levels – households, communities, and the wider communities – and encompasses the following partner countries: Afghanistan, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, and Tunisia.

“We want to mobilize families, peers and communities to encourage informed and safe migration decisions, protect migrants, and help those returning home reintegrate successfully,” said Monica Goracci, Director of the Department of Migration Management at IOM.

READ  Somali migrants return from Iran, after several months of being stranded

“One key component is also undermining the trafficking and smuggling business models through the promotion of safe alternatives and information sharing to reduce the risks of exploitation and abuse by these criminal networks.” Vulnerable migrants, including victims of trafficking and unaccompanied or separated children, will have access to a broad range of protection and assistance services such as mental health and psychosocial support, while migrants in transit who wish to return home will be supported with dignified return and reintegration.

Community level interventions will focus on improving community-led efforts to address trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants, and support sustainable reintegration of returning migrants. COMPASS will work with national and local governments to enable a conducive environment for migrant protection, migration management and international cooperation on these issues.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is pleased to launch the COMPASS programme in cooperation with IOM, an important and longstanding partner on migration cooperation,” said Marriët Schuurman, Director for Stability and Humanitarian Aid of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.

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“The programme is a part of the Dutch comprehensive approach to migration with activities that contribute to protection and decreasing irregular migration. Research and data gathering are also important components, and we hope that the insights that will be gained under COMPASS will contribute to broader knowledge sharing on migration and better-informed migration policies.”, added Schuurman. The initiative has a strong learning component, designed to increase knowledge and the uptake of lessons learned, both within the programme and beyond its parameters. COMPASS will actively contribute to global knowledge that supports countries in managing migration flows and protecting vulnerable migrants such as victims of trafficking. The implementation of COMPASS is set to start soon.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, as the donor to the COMPASS initiative, pledges its active support to partner countries to improve migration cooperation mechanisms within its long-term vision. 

IOM, the leading inter-governmental organization in the field of migration, contributes its expertise as the technical implementation partner to the initiative. IOM works closely with governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental partners in its dedication to promoting humane and orderly migration for the benefit of all. 

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A child, 40 others drown in shipwreck off Tunisia

Photo: Mediterranean Sea

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are deeply saddened by reports of a shipwreck off the coast of Sidi Mansour, in southeast Tunisia, yesterday evening. The bodies of 41 people, including at least one child, have so far been retrieved.

According to reports from local UNHCR and IOM teams, three survivors were rescued by the Tunisian National Coast Guard. The search effort was still underway on Friday. Based on initial information, all those who perished were from Sub-Saharan Africa.

This tragic loss of life underscores once again the need to enhance and expand State-led search and rescue operations across the Central Mediterranean, where some 290 people have lost their lives so far this year. Solidarity across the region and support to national authorities in their efforts to prevent loss of life and prosecute smugglers and traffickers should be a priority.

Prior to yesterday’s incident, 39 refugees and migrants had perished off the coast near the Tunisian city of Sfax in early March. So far this year, sea departures from Tunisia to Europe have more than tripled compared to the same period in 2020.

READ  IOM appeals for lifesaving assistance to over half a million displaced and vulnerable migrants in Niger

UNHCR and IOM continue to monitor developments closely. They continue to stand ready to work with the national authorities to assist and support the survivors, and the family members of those lost.

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Ethiopian migrants return home from Yemen with IOM support in wake of tragic boat sinking

Yemen: Stranded Ethiopian migrants prepare to board an IOM-facilitated flight from Aden, Yemen, to fly home to Addis Ababa. Photo: IOM/Majed Mohammed 2021

One hundred and sixty Ethiopian migrants have returned home safely from Yemen today with the assistance of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), just one day after a perilous journey across the Gulf of Aden claimed the lives of dozens of people, including at least 16 children.

More than 32,000 migrants, predominantly from Ethiopia, remain stranded across Yemen in dire, often deadly, circumstances.

“The conditions of migrants stranded in Yemen has become so tragic that many feel they have no option but to rely on smugglers to return home,” said Jeffrey Labovitz, IOM’s Director for Operations and Emergencies.

At least 42 people returning from Yemen are believed to have died on Monday when their vessel sank off the coast of Djibouti. Last month, at least 20 people had also drowned on the same route according to survivors. IOM believes that, since May 2020, over 11,000 migrants have returned to the Horn of Africa on dangerous boat journeys, aided by unscrupulous smugglers.

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“Our Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) programme provides a lifeline for those stranded in a country now experiencing its seventh year of conflict and crisis. We call on all governments along the route to come together and support our efforts to allow migrants safe and dignified opportunities to travel home,” added Labovitz.

COVID-19 has had a major impact on global migration. The route from the Horn of Africa to Gulf countries has been particularly affected. Tens of thousands of migrants, hoping to work in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), now find themselves unable to complete their journeys, stranded across Djibouti, Somalia and Yemen.

While the pandemic has also caused the number of migrants arriving to Yemen to decrease from 138,000 in 2019 to just over 37,500 in 2020, the risks they face continue to rise. Many of these migrants are stranded in precarious situations, sleeping rough without shelter or access to services. Many others are in detention or being held by smugglers.

READ  Displaced Yemen children at risk of the deadly impacts of severe food insecurity  

“We cannot find jobs or food here; Yemen is a problem for us,” said Gamal, a 22-year-old migrant returning on the VHR flight. “I used to sleep in the street on cardboard. I could only eat because of the charity people would give me and sometimes we were given leftovers from restaurants. I never had much to eat.”

Since October 2020, in Aden alone, IOM has registered over 6,000 migrants who need support to safely return home. Today’s flight to Addis Ababa was the second transporting an initial group of 1,100 Ethiopians who have been approved for VHR to Ethiopia. Thousands of other undocumented migrants are waiting for their nationality to be verified and travel documents to be provided.

Prior to departure on the VHR flight, IOM carried out medical and protection screenings to ensure that returnees are fit to travel and are voluntarily consenting to return. Those with special needs are identified and receive specialized counselling and support.

In Ethiopia, IOM supports government-run COVID-19 quarantine facilities to accommodate the returnees on arrival and provides cash assistance, essential items and onward transportation to their homes. The Organization also supports family tracing for unaccompanied migrant children.

READ  Over 140 migrants perish in deadliest shipwreck of the year

Across the Horn of Africa and Yemen, IOM provides life-saving support to migrants through health care, food, water and other vital assistance.

Today’s flight was funded by the US State Department’s Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM). Post-arrival assistance in Addis Ababa is supported by EU Humanitarian Aid and PRM.

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