Guatemala says flights of deportees from U.S. suspendedReuters | Updated: 18-03-2020 00:27 IST | Created: 18-03-2020 00:27 IST
Flights to Guatemala of Guatemalans and other nationalities deported from the United States under a deal with Washington have been temporarily suspended, Guatemala's government said on Tuesday, amid concerns over the spread of coronavirus.
The deportations have formed part of efforts by the U.S. government to put more pressure on Central American countries to shoulder the burden of stopping illegal immigration, which U.S. President Donald Trump has made a keystone of his policy. In a statement, Guatemala's foreign ministry said it had suspended flights of Guatemalans until proper sanitary protocols could be established in the Central American country to permit the safe return of the people to their places of origin.
Guatemalan Foreign Minister Pedro Brolo said the flights would be halted for the duration of a "state of calamity" declared in the country, which is due to end on April 6. Under pressure from Trump, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador - the Central American countries responsible for the bulk of illegal immigration north - last year agreed to deals with Washington that oblige them to accept migrants seeking asylum.
Under its asylum agreement with the United States, Guatemala also receives some returned Hondurans and Salvadorans. Human rights advocates were critical of the agreements, saying that the trio of violent and impoverished countries were not well placed to provide asylum to vulnerable migrants.
The Guatemalan foreign ministry said that U.S. authorities had provided information on added sanitary measures to ensure that no deportees with symptoms of coronavirus were sent back.