Guatemala seeks to limit migrants returned under U.S. agreement

Guatemala's new government is trying to limit the number of foreign migrants the United States sends its way under an agreement implemented in November.

The U.S. has redirected hundreds of asylum seekers - from Honduras and El Salvador - to Guatemala… and is now looking to expand the program as a way of curbing U.S. asylum claims.

Known as an Asylum Cooperative Agreement and signed by the previous Guatemalan government, the deal is similar to the ‘safe third country agreement’ under which asylum seekers who pass through Canada must apply for refuge there rather than in the United States.

Guatemala's deputy foreign minister Eduardo Hernandez told Reuters its priority in ongoing talks with U.S. officials is to make sure the number sent back each day does not exceed its "very limited" capacity to process new arrivals.

Hernandez said the government was working with U.S. officials to produce clear rules… like, how many families with children Guatemala accepts, whether to extend the deal to more nationalities, and how many foreign asylum seekers it would take per day.

Under the initial agreement, the United States agreed to only include individual adults, but Hernandez said it was later extended to include families with children.

A shelter that takes in returned foreign migrants, said that pregnant women and young children showing signs of chronic stress were among those U.S. officials had placed in the program.

Data released by the Guatemalan government showed that over 750 migrants have already been returned, including over 300 children.