Asylum Cooperative Agreements with the Governments of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras: Implications and Consequences
In September 2019, the Trump administration announced a series of Asylum Cooperative Agreements (ACA) with the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras – three countries that constitute the Northern Triangle of Central America. The agreements required migrants from other countries seeking asylum in the United States to instead apply for asylum in these countries first. If the asylum seekers were not able to obtain protection in these countries, they could be sent back to their home countries. The ACA was one of the administration’s key measures to deter migration to the United States from Central America.
However, the ACA has been widely criticized by human rights groups, legal scholars, and international organizations, who view the agreements as a violation of international laws and an abandonment of the US’s duty to protect refugees. Here are some of the key implications and consequences of the ACA:
1. The ACA undermines the right to seek asylum
The right to seek asylum is a fundamental human right recognized by international law. The ACA, by requiring asylum seekers to apply for protection in countries with poor human rights records and limited capacity to provide asylum, has effectively blocked many asylum seekers from accessing this right. The ACA also puts asylum seekers in danger by forcing them to navigate a complex and often corrupt asylum system in the Northern Triangle, where they may face violence, persecution, or other forms of harm.
2. The ACA shifts responsibility away from the US
The ACA allows the US to shift the responsibility of processing asylum claims to the Northern Triangle countries, which are already struggling with their own internal challenges such as poverty, violence, and political instability. The ACA also absolves the US from its responsibility to address the root causes of migration from Central America, such as gang violence, political repression, and economic inequality.
3. The ACA may violate international laws
The ACA raises serious concerns about compliance with international laws and norms related to refugees and asylum. For example, the ACA may violate the principle of non-refoulement, which prohibits countries from returning refugees or asylum seekers to a country where they may face persecution or harm. The ACA may also violate the Convention Against Torture, which requires countries to prevent the return of individuals to countries where they may be tortured.
4. The ACA may exacerbate the humanitarian crisis in the Northern Triangle
The ACA may further destabilize the already fragile political and social situation in the Northern Triangle. By sending more asylum seekers to these countries, the ACA may exacerbate the strain on their already limited resources and increase the risk of social unrest, violence, and conflict. The ACA may also encourage more people to undertake dangerous and illegal migration routes to the US, putting themselves and their families at risk.
In conclusion, the ACA represents a significant escalation in the US’s efforts to deter migration from Central America. However, the ACA also raises serious concerns about its legality, morality, and effectiveness. As the Biden administration takes office, it remains to be seen whether it will continue to implement the ACA or adopt a different approach to address the complex issues of migration and asylum in the region.