By Kelsey Norman

Over the past two months, the Trump administration has attempted to enact “safe third country” agreements with Mexico and Guatemala, two key countries that are producers of and countries of transit for asylum seekers attempting to enter the United States. Last week, the Trump administration published a new asylum regulation that attempts to sidestep either deal and unilaterally bar asylum applications for anyone who transited through a third country.

Safe-third-country agreements are a way to legally return asylum seekers who are applying for asylum but whose claims have not yet been assessed to the territory of another state that they previously passed through. The United States has a safe-third-country agreement with Canada, whereby asylum seekers who arrive in Canada after having traveled through the United States can be sent back to the United States to have their claims assessed there, and vice versa. …

The 2016 E.U.-Turkey deal also had a safe-third-country mechanism embedded within it, meaning that Syrian nationals could be returned to Turkey as part of the deal. The deal caused an outcry among human rights advocates, partly because the conditions for refugees in Turkey call into question whether the country can be considered safe. …

The proposed agreements with Mexico and Guatemala will also face pushback along the lines of whether these countries can be considered safe, but the E.U.-Turkey deal bears three other important lessons for the United States’ negotiations.

Kelsey Norman is the Kelly Day fellow in women’s rights, human rights and refugees in the Middle East and North Africa at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. She wrote this analysis for The Washington Post; you can read the complete article here.

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