Central Americans Seeking Asylum Treated Unfairly

At the Saltillo migrant shelter in Coahuila, a day’s journey to the Texas border, migrants are given food, medical care and legal aid At the Saltillo migrant shelter in Coahuila, a day’s journey to the Texas border, migrants are given food, medical care and legal aid © Amy Stillman

23 June 2016
Central Americans fleeing the Northern Triangle are faced with a treacherous journey and an unfair asylum system.

Central America’s Northern Triangle is made up of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, three of the most dangerous and violent countries due to conflict among organized criminal groups. People are often kidnapped, tortured or killed, and many survivors are forced to leave and travel north to seek asylum. However, they are then faced with the many obstacles of an asylum system that will not allow them to seek protection because they do not fall within the definition.

International refugee law states that people that are persecuted in their home country, or have a well-founded fear of persecution, based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion are the only ones eligible for international protection. This law has been adopted in many countries, including Mexico, the United States, and Canada, where many of the asylum seekers from the Northern Triangle often travel to in order to claim protection.

However, fleeing a country from gang violence is often too general for asylum seekers to claim protection under the definition of refugee law. In El Salvador for example, women fear persecution from gang members and they are simply targeted because they are women. Those that flee to the US have a hard time finding a lawyer willing to take their case because gender is not one of the categories accepted under the definition.

Even when they do find a lawyer willing to take on their case, the claimant may not be able to afford the legal fees of the case. According to US court data about 60 percent of asylum seekers from the Northern Triangle have no legal representation. This is troublesome for asylum seekers because without a lawyer or substantial proof that the claimant falls within one of the accepted categories of the refugee definition, their chances of obtaining international protection are greatly diminished.

A report published by Human Rights Watch in 2014 found that many Central American asylum seekers who expressed their fear of returning to their country, were deported by US officials prior to being allowed to claim protection. “Border patrols regularly don’t record expressions of fear, thus not flagging them for the credible fear interview,” said Cara Long, a HRW researcher. If these people re-enter the US after they have been deported, they are placed in reinstatement of removal proceedings, where they are detained for long periods of time and without the ability to apply for asylum.

The US is urging Mexico to tighten their border security and track transiting migrants coming from the Northern Triangle. But increased violence is forcing more people to flee their homes and seek protection elsewhere, despite the illegal and dangerous routes they often have to take. Between October 2015 and May 2016, over 83,000 unaccompanied minors and mothers with children, a majority of them from Central America, were detained at the US border.


To know more, read:


Read 15961 times