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Guatemala says it has not pledged to be safe third country for migrants

Guatemala says it has not pledged to be safe third country for migrants
FILE PHOTO: Migrants from Honduras, part of a new caravan from Central America trying to reach the United States, walk along a road, in Esquipulas, Guatemala January 16, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Cabrera -
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JORGE CABRERA(Reuters)
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GUATEMALACITY (Reuters) – Guatemala has not committed to becoming a “safe third country,” or a buffer zone for asylum seekers, but is analysing with the United States how to contain migrant flows from Central America, interior minister Enrique Degenhart said on Tuesday.

U.S. President Donald Trump wrote in a tweet on Monday that Guatemala “is getting ready to sign a Safe-Third Agreement,” suggesting that the nation could receive asylum seekers from neighbouring countries.

“We have not said we accept being a safe third country. … We’re in discussions to find a measure that suits both countries,” Degenhart told reporters, saying he welcomed that the United States saw Guatemala as a “safe country.”

If Guatemala accepted such an agreement, it would be obliged to process asylum claims from migrants who entered its territory first while en route to another country. That could apply to U.S.-bound Honduran or Salvadoran migrants passing through Guatemala.

Neighbouring Mexico has so far refused to take on the safe third country role despite pressure from Washington to do more to stem migration across its southern border with Guatemala.

Trump has threatened to remove millions of undocumented immigrants from the United States, and this week moved to slash U.S. aid to Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras over migration.

(Reporting by Sofia Menchu; Writing by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Dave Graham and Jonathan Oatis)

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