Mexico not ready for safe-third-country agreement with US: envoy

Mexico's ambassador to US also says its northern neighbour must speed up its processing of asylum claims.

    Migrants from Mexico and Central America leave an overcrowded migrant shelter to look for another place to stay in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico [File: Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters]
    Migrants from Mexico and Central America leave an overcrowded migrant shelter to look for another place to stay in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico [File: Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters]

    Mexico is not ready to sign a safe-third-country agreement with the Trump administration regarding asylum seekers at their shared border, the Mexican ambassador to the United States said on Thursday in advance of a Monday deadline.

    Martha Barcena, speaking at an event in Washington, DC, said the US must speed up its processing of asylum claims and that migrants cannot wait in Mexico for three years waiting for US action.

    She was referring to the US's "Remain in Mexico" policy in which more than 15,000 asylum seekers have been returned to Mexico to wait out their cases. About 5,000 are children, according to US media.

    Barcena also rejected the administration's sweeping new asylum rules announced on Monday that bar almost all immigrants from applying for asylum at the US-Mexico border by requiring them to first pursue safe haven in a third country through which they had travelled on the way to the US. The American Civil Liberties Union and other rights groups have challenged the new rule in the courts.

    Barcena said she interprets the new rules as not sending migrants to Mexico but rather to their countries of origin. 

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    Monday is the deadline set by US President Donald Trump last month to negotiate third country status if Mexico did not do enough to stem flow of certain migrants to the US.

    Last week, Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said Mexico "will not enter any safe third country negotiations without express authorisation of Congress".

    Guatemala's president cancelled a trip to Washington, DC, earlier this week in which he was expected to discuss a possible "safe country agreement".

    "The government of the republic reiterates that at no moment has it contemplated signing an agreement to convert Guatemala into a safe third country," the Guatemalan government said in a statement.

    Tens of thousands of immigrants and asylum seekers - mostly from Central America - have trekked to the US-Mexico border over the last year, fleeing violence, political persecution and extreme poverty.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies