Unsafe “Third Country Agreements” Put Asylum Seekers at Risk

While many of the Trump-Pence administration’s most harmful immigration-related actions have grabbed headlines, one that has flown mostly under the radar has been the so-called “Third Country Agreements” it has signed with some of the world’s most dangerous countries.

These agreements essentially allow the U.S. to deport some asylum seekers to countries that the administration deems to be “safe” – no matter how much evidence suggests otherwise. The administration recently signed such agreements with three countries from which people – including many LGBTQ people – have long been fleeing violence and persecution: Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. There is extensive research and documentation in these three countries, known as the “Northern Triangle,” that attests to extreme levels of violence, including by gangs, and an unfortunate inability or unwillingness to protect residents. 

  • Guatemala: Gang-related violence and extortion are on-going and serious problems in Guatemala and have prompted many people, including unaccompanied children, to flee the country. A United Nations report in 2017 showed that there is also “persistent discrimination of and violence against people based on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity” and noted cases of office-holders and members of the public being singled out for violence. That same year, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) reported that, despite high prevalence, very few cases of anti-LGBTQ violence are investigated there.
  • El Salvador: According to Human Rights Watch, El Salvador has one of the world’s highest homicide rates, with gangs exercising control over large swaths of the country, forcibly recruiting children into their ranks and subjecting women and girls and LGBTQ people into sexual slavery. Security forces have been largely unable to protect the population from gang violence and have committed abuses of their own. HRW also recently reported that at least 138 Salvadorans had been killed in the last seven years after being deported by the U.S. Media sources have also described epidemic levels of violence against LGBTQ people specifically, and civil society organizations have documented and spoken out on instances of state-sponsored violence, hate crimes and other violations of fundamental rights. 
  • Honduras: Honduras is frequently referred to as the murder capital of the world, and many LGBTQ people in Honduras experience discrimination, harassment and violence. Numerous sources indicate that discrimination and violence directed at members of the LGBTQ community have been escalating in recent years, with 264 LGBTQ people reportedly having been murdered in the country between 2009 and 2017. 

It is unconscionable and immoral that the Trump-Pence administration would put LGBTQ people and others in harm’s way by sending them to countries with such ongoing violence. Learn more about the Trump-Pence administration’s attack on the LGBTQ community here.

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