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July 12, 2019

Guatemala Not Safe for Refugees

New York City—In response to reports that the United States and Guatemala may enter into a “safe third country” agreement in the coming days, a move the Trump Administration would use to force refugees from Honduras, El Salvador, and other countries to seek asylum there, Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer issued the following statement:

Guatemala is simply not a safe country for refugees fleeing violence and persecution, in fact it is a country that thousands of people are desperately leaving. Guatemala comes nowhere near meeting U.S. legal requirements for a safe country for refugee returns. The U.S. government’s own reports confirm Guatemala is one of the most dangerous countries in the world, where women face extremely high rates of murder and both women and children are targets of sex trafficking.  

It’s legally absurd and highly dangerous for the United States to force men, women, and children seeking protection to a country plagued by such violence. This is yet another example of the Trump Administration abandoning our nation’s laws and principles in order to score political points by turning refugees back to horrific harms.

The U.S. State Department’s own human rights reports reveal that rape, femicide, violence against women, trafficking in persons, violent attacks against LGBTI persons, and gang-recruitment of displaced children are all serious problems in Guatemala. Corruption and extortion are rampant, leaving many people unprotected by the police and other authorities. Refugees returned to Guatemala would not only face dangers there, but they would be at grave risk of being sent back to their countries of persecution given the country’s lack of effective systems and capacity for identifying and protecting refugees from deportation.

Human Rights First, in partnership with more than a dozen organizations with refugee and regional human rights expertise, released a new blueprint offering concrete steps to manage the humanitarian crisis at the U.S. southern border and to address the damage the Trump Administration’s mismanagement of it has caused. 

For more information on how Guatemala does not meet U.S. requirements for a safe country, see Human Right First’s analysis, Is Guatemala Safe for Refugees and Asylum Seekers? To speak with Acer contact Corinne Duffy at DuffyC@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3319.