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US warns countries not accepting repatriated migrants

By Agence France-Presse

A senior official warned Monday that Washington will retaliate against countries that don’t accept repatriations of their citizens from the United States.

Migrants arrive in a closed camp of Kleidi near Promahonas, Northern Greece on March 21, 2020, where migrants are being transfered as the country is battling hard to control the spread of the COVID-19, the novel coronavirus among tens of thousands of migrants in the overcrowded camps. - The situation was recently qualified as a "health bomb" by Greek government spokesman. On March 18, 2020, the migration ministry said it was "drastically" reducing the movement of camp residents on Greek islands, where the worst congestion occurs. (Photo by Sakis MITROLIDIS / AFP)

Migrants arrive in a closed camp of Kleidi near Promahonas, Northern Greece on March 21, 2020, where migrants are being transfered as the country is battling hard to control the spread of the COVID-19, the novel coronavirus among tens of thousands of migrants in the overcrowded camps. (Photo by Sakis MITROLIDIS / AFP / file photo / MANILA BULLETIN)

The official, speaking anonymously but who is directly involved in US immigration policy, did not name the target or targets of the threat.

But El Salvador appeared to be one, and possibly Guatemala.

Both announced last week they would stop accepting flights from the United States carrying their expelled nationals.

But since then Guatemala has reversed itself, and allowed three repatriation flights to land, including one on Monday carrying 85 people.

“It is hard to imagine why nations would not take back their citizens quickly,” the official said in a call with journalists.

“It is not an acceptable position to the government of the United States,” he said.

The official said that lack of cooperation on repatriations would be remembered in Washington for some time, and that the administration of President Donald Trump would announce some actions later this week.

“We intend to act accordingly if the need arises,” he said.

Millions of migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras have entered the United States illegally in recent years, most seeking asylum and hoping to be released into the country while their cases await adjudication.

To counter that the Trump administration has moved to severely tighten the granting of asylum and to organize repatriation flights for nationals of those countries who are expelled.

Last year it reached agreements with each of the three countries to accept repatriated migrants.

The administration has also stepped up arrests of undocumented immigrants deemed criminals, and last week Acting Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Ken Cuccinelli said those would not be curtailed, except near hospitals and health facilities.

Last week Guatemala and El Salvador cited concern for the spread of coronavirus in announcing the suspensions of the flights.

The US official however stressed that those being expelled are vetted for signs of infection.

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