A report by the Washington-based Refugees International organisation charges US immigration policy with helping the spread of the coronavirus in Guatemala, as federal agencies in the US and Mexico have repatriated infected Guatemalans through deportations.
In Harmful Returns: The Compounded Vulnerabilities of Returned Guatemalans in the Time of Covid-19, a report released on 23rd June, Refugees International urges that Guatemalans seeking refuge be allowed to apply for asylum in the US, instead of being turned over to Mexican authorities or repatriated, and that they be allowed to go with US sponsors while they wait for their day in immigration court.
But US policies such as the “Remain in Mexico” program, also called the Migrant Protection Protocols, or MPP, which asks those seeking asylum in the US to wait in Mexico until a US immigration court can adjudicate their case, have led to the eventual return home of many Guatemalans and other Central Americans during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Earlier this year, Guatemalan officials halted flights carrying deportees into the country, saying that at least 20 per cent of its Covid-19 cases had resulted from deportees who contracted the virus in US detention centres. Citing those figures, Refugees International said once they were returned to Guatemala, deportees tested positive for Covid-19, “despite having clean bill of health documents from the United States.”
And once they return to Guatemala, they were met with stigma, lack of jobs and still facing dangerous conditions in addition to having contracted the virus, the group says.
Picture: A bus driver outside Guatemala City directs people boarding a bus on 19th March 2020, after they were deported from the United States. (CNS photo/Fabricio Alonso, Reuters).