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LostInParadise's avatar

What is a safe third country agreement?

Asked by LostInParadise (27295points) July 27th, 2019

Trump just forced Guatemala to sign a safe third country agreement. I am confused as to how these work. Before the agreement with Guatemala, Trump gave an executive order saying that asylum seekers must first apply for asylum in whatever country they first land in. What does the agreement with Guatemala add to this?

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elbanditoroso's avatar

According to some interpretations of international law (and this is what Trump is choosing to use) a refugee must apply for asylum in the first country that they can, as opposed to passing through that country to another country. The legal theory is that the refugee is out of their ‘home’ country and that any country (other than that) is a refuge.

Only if that first country rejects the refugee’s request for asylum can the person move to a different country (like the US).

There are various flaws in that legal theory of Trump’s:

1) it assumes that the first country is ready and willing to take in refugees
2) it assumes that the first country is safer than the person’s original country
3) it assumes that the person actually wants to stay there
4) it contravenes existing US immigration law

The agreement that Trump forced on Guatemala (not much of an agreement if you have to force the other guy to sign it!) basically required Guatemala to accept and process incoming refugees from the countries south of it. In other words, to play the role of “first country after you leave”, thereby moving the asylum request to Guatemala first.

my opinion – this is a short term win for Trump. But medium and long term, Guatemala isn’t going to play along, and they’ll bail out of the agreement as soon as it costs them too much. So it’ll work for a while, but not very long.

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