World, Americas

'US-El Salvador migration deal lacks transparency'

Salvadoran ex-envoy claims signed deal could make El Salvador safe third country for migration, while US says it isn't

Beyza Binnur Donmez   | 04.09.2019
'US-El Salvador migration deal lacks transparency'


Salvadoran diplomat Ruben Zamora raised concerns about a recent migration deal signed between the U.S. and El Salvador in a bid to curb flow of Central American migrants to the southern U.S. border.

"This is a real international relations problem, that one thing is read here and another is interpreted in the United States," Zamora said in an interview with Salvadoran Channel 33, according to a Tuesday report by Cuban state news agency Prensa Latina.

Stressing that people of El Salvador is "deeply" concerned about the letter of intent signed by Foreign Minister Alexandra Hill and U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan, Zamora, also his country's former ambassador to the UN, said it makes El Salvador a "safe third country" in line with U.S' immigration goals.

The safe third country agreement forces Central American migrants to apply for asylum in signed country and be processed in that country before they can apply in the U.S., even though under U.S. law migrants are allowed to apply for asylum within the U.S. or at official ports of entry.

Washington signed a safe third country agreement with Guatemala, after rejected by Mexico, to reduce immigration flows in late July and is seeking to sign with El Salvador and Honduras.

Following a tariff threat from the U.S. administration, Mexico and the U.S. reached an agreement in June which obligates Mexico to reduce the immigration flow.

Last week, U.S. and Salvadoran officials signed a letter of intent to strength cooperation on border security and immigration.

However, McAleenan emphasized the deal focuses on "improving security in El Salvador" and "does not amount to a safe third country agreement."

Speaking at a news conference after meeting with President Nayib Bukele, McAleenan said the letter of intent signed "to collaborate on a broad basis on law enforcement and countering gangs, increasing border security, information sharing and economic vitality, as well as supporting the Salvadorans’ own initiative on developing asylum and protection capacity."

Scores of migrants from Central American countries are grappling with the U.S. anti-migrant policy at the border.

U.S. President Donald Trump has pursued a hardline approach to immigration, both legal and illegal, since coming to office and has particularly singled out Mexico for what he says is a lack of action to stem migrant flows, where people are fleeing destitute conditions, including rampant poverty and gang violence in the hopes of securing safety or asylum in the U.S.

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