First Honduran returned to Guatemala under US asylum accord

First Honduran returned to Guatemala under US asylum accord

GUATEMALA CITY — A Honduran asylum seeker has been returned by the United States to pursue asylum in Guatemala for the first time under an agreement signed in July, Guatemala’s Foreign Ministry said Thursday.

The Honduran man, who was not identified, had reached the U.S. border at El Paso, Texas, but was sent to Guatemala Thursday.

Guatemalan Interior Minister Enrique Degenhart said that more flights bearing returned asylum seekers are expected next week.

“We are waiting for the U.S. government to tell us how many people are ready for return," Degenhart said.

He said migrants are asked again what they want to do when they are sent back to Guatemala, and in this case the Honduran man changed his mind.

“In this case, the Honduran gentleman has asked for assistance to return to his home country,” Degenhart told reporters.

Under the July U.S.-Guatemala agreement, asylum seekers have to file claims in Guatemala rather than in the United States if they crossed through Guatemala on their way to the U.S. border.

Salvadorans would also be covered under the agreement because land routes to the U.S. border from that country lead through Guatemala.

However, there are doubts whether Guatemala can guarantee conditions for asylum seekers. So far this year, 49,000 of Guatemala’s own citizens have been deported from the United States.

U.S. authorities have declined to respond to several inquiries from The Associated Press about the programme.