Many asylum seekers who reach the US border now face being returned to Central American countries
This is coming as Honduras signed a deal with the United States to accept migrants applying for asylum in the US. Under the agreement, the US would be able to deport to Honduras asylum seekers who passed through the country on the way to the US southern border.
Critics say Honduras, which has one of the highest murder rates in the world, is not a safe destination for those fleeing violence and poverty.
Recall that Guatemala and El Salvador already signed a similar deal.
The US has been trying to sign “safe third country” agreements that would allow it to send back asylum seekers who pass through countries on the way to the US without seeking protection there.
US President Donald Trump has made reducing the numbers of migrants crossing the US-Mexico border a key priority.
The bulk of those arriving at the border are from the three countries of Central America’s so-called Northern Triangle – Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. Many have made long and perilous journeys in their attempt to start a new life in the US.
Correspondents say all three agreements remain in a complex process of legal challenges and parliamentary ratification procedures.
What is the latest deal?
On Wednesday, a senior US Department of Homeland Security official told US media that the deal with Honduras would “allow migrants to seek protection as close to home as possible”.
Migration experts quoted by Honduran Newspaper El Heraldo said that Cubans, Venezuelans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and some Africans pass through Honduras heading to the US.
The deal signed with the US could mean 26,000 migrants per year being hosted by Honduras pending their asylum applications, the newspaper estimated, with some applications taking years to process.
Immigrant rights groups argue that Honduras –is one of the most violent countries in the world – should never be considered a safe place for asylum seekers, many of whom will be fleeing gang violence in their own countries.
They also say that even if migrants wanted to apply for asylum in Honduras, the system there is so broken and understaffed that almost no application would receive the attention needed.
Adding to the country’s woes, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández has been named as a co-conspirator on drug-smuggling charges in a case which has already seen his brother, Tony Hernández, formally charged in a US federal court. He denies any wrongdoing and says the claims are politically motivated.
Addressing the UN General Assembly on Wednesday, Mr Hernández hit out at what he called “smears” from “criminals” and others.(BBC)