Vide­garay op­poses ‘safe third coun­try agree­ment’

Bangkok Post - - WORLD -

MEX­ICO CITY: Mex­ico is op­posed to a US re­quest to make peo­ple seek­ing asy­lum in the United States ap­ply in Mex­ico in­stead, ac­cord­ing to a source and a brief­ing note, in a set­back to US ef­forts to deepen co­op­er­a­tion on im­mi­gra­tion be­fore a leftist pres­i­dent takes of­fice.

US of­fi­cials be­lieve a deal known as a “Safe Third Coun­try Agree­ment”, could prove a de­ter­rent to thou­sands of Cen­tral Amer­i­cans who travel through Mex­ico each year to seek US asy­lum, clog­ging im­mi­gra­tion courts and caus­ing a headache for US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Yet de­spite grow­ing US pres­sure for it to ac­cept the treaty, Mex­ico views the pro­posal as a red line it will not cross, ac­cord­ing to the brief­ing note pre­pared for For­eign Min­is­ter Luis Vide­garay for a meet­ing he had with US Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Kirst­jen Nielsen in Gu­atemala on Tues­day.

“Mex­ico is not in the po­si­tion to ac­cept a safe third coun­try agree­ment, as the United States has pro­posed on pre­vi­ous oc­ca­sions,” the note says.

“Mex­ico has made a sig­nif­i­cant ef­fort to pro­vide Cen­tral Amer­i­cans de­tained on (Mex­ico’s) south­ern bor­der with greater in­for­ma­tion on asy­lum, and re­cently adopted mea­sures which al­low asy­lum ap­pli­cants to work while their case is re­solved.”

The safe third coun­try pro­posal would force asy­lum-seekers who ar­rive at the US land bor­der via Mex­ico to ap­ply to stay in Mex­ico, likely as refugees south of the bor­der.

Many of the 2,000 or so for­eign chil­dren taken from their par­ents re­cently un­der Mr Trump’s zero-tol­er­ance pol­icy against il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion were sep­a­rated from par­ents seek­ing asy­lum in the United States.

Un­der Mr Vide­garay, Mex­ico has be­come in­creas­ingly will­ing to co­op­er­ate with the United States on some is­sues, which se­nior US and Mex­i­can of­fi­cials say is part of a strat­egy to curry favour with Wash­ing­ton in hopes of win­ning a ben­e­fi­cial rene­go­ti­a­tion of the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment.

The United States is hop­ing to con­sol­i­date im­proved co­op­er­a­tion on im­mi­gra­tion and se­cu­rity be­fore leftist An­dres Manuel Lopez Obrador is sworn in as Mex­i­can pres­i­dent on Dec 1, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cials from both coun­tries.

While Mr Lopez Obrador says he wants good re­la­tions with the United States, the nationalist-leaning leader is a long-term ad­vo­cate of migrant rights and is seen as even less likely to ac­cept an asy­lum pact, a se­nior Mex­i­can of­fi­cial said.

The Mex­i­can of­fi­cial, who asked to speak anony­mously to dis­cuss pri­vate bi­lat­eral dis­cus­sions, said it was not clear whether Ms Nielsen had pro­posed the agree­ment in her bi­lat­eral meet­ing with Mr Vide­garay, nor whether the Mex­i­can min­is­ter re­jected it if she did.

REUTERS

Vide­garay: Mex­ico not ready to ac­cept asy­lum re­quests.

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