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Trócaire concerned by threats made to Guatemalan Migrant House

24 January 2020

Trócaire is extremely concerned by serious threats recently received by our local partner, Casa del Migrante, in Guatemala.

Father Mauro Verzeletti, director of the Migrant House, pictured at the Casa del Migrante in Guatemala City. Photo: Mark Stedman

Casa del Migrante – a Migrant House, based in Guatemala City – is supported by Trócaire and provides food, shelter, medical assistance and legal advice to migrants travelling from Central America, many of whom are en route to Mexico or the US border.

This vital assistance is given to thousands of migrants, who are fleeing violence, abuse, death threats and political persecution in various Central American countries, including Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, in addition to Guatemalan deportees from the United States.

Trócaire greatly concerned by threats

A huge number of innocent people are forced to migrate due to the impacts of climate change, the exploitation of land and workers and a lack of regulation of big business in their native countries. There is currently a new wave of ‘Migrant Caravans’, made up of hundreds of people, making their way through Guatemala in search of safety, refuge and a better life.

A Trócaire delegation visited the Migrant House last year just weeks after a number of ‘Migrant Caravans’ passed through the facility. The centre has at many times been under major pressure due to the numbers arriving at their doors – they have beds for 60 people, but have had to sleep up to 600 in the facility (with a further 1,200 people in nearby buildings) such was the scale of people travelling in the 'Migrant Caravans' around that time.

A migrant and his daughter, who were fleeing from Honduras, pictured at the Casa del Migrante (Migrant House) in Guatemala City in 2019 Photo: Mark Stedman

Father Mauro Verzeletti, director of the Migrant House, explained that they have received threatening phone calls of a “very serious” nature this week, with threats made to staff in addition to the facility itself.

He said: “The caller identified himself as someone from the General Directorate of Migration and knew about the work we are doing. The calls are very intimidating and they threaten the lives of our staff.”

Protection for vital services 

Fr Mauro has requested the assistance and protection of Guatemalan authorities, insisting: “We ask Guatemalan society to see the human side of people who migrate. All migration policy must respect the migration code.”

Trócaire fully supports this request and calls on the Guatemalan authorities to investigate threats made to Fr Mauro and the staff of Casa del Migrante in order to protect its vital services.

Fr Mauro also thanked the people of Ireland for their ongoing support: “We want to acknowledge the support and solidarity provided by Trócaire to the Migrant House since the year 2000.

“This support was really important and meaningful in order [to help us] to take care of the internally displaced migrants that come to the Migrant House, and then continue their journey north.

“Many of these people decided to stay in Guatemala to start a new life, because in countries like El Salvador and Honduras poverty and violence are widespread, but this is also evident in Guatemala. These people are leaving their countries searching for international protection.”

Brutal approach must end

Trócaire CEO Caoimhe de Barra said: “We are very concerned about the threats that have been made to the staff of Casa del Migrante. The centre provides essential support to many distressed people fleeing some of the world’s most dangerous and politically volatile countries.

“Unfortunately these threats appear to be indicative of the general hostility to migrants that has also been shown by the US and the EU in recent years. The Trump administration’s brutal policing of its southern border is now being replicated by the Mexican National Guard on the Mexican-Guatemalan border with the use of pepper spray and riot gear.

“This callous approach is a direct result of US policies after President Trump compelled the Guatemalan Government to accept the “safe third country” agreement, despite the fact that Guatemala itself is not a safe place for refugees.

“Trócaire is encouraging the Irish Government to engage with the Guatemalan Government and express its concern in relation to the treatment of migrants.”

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