Last Updated: Friday, 16 February 2018, 15:01 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2003 - Guatemala

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 1 June 2003
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2003 - Guatemala , 1 June 2003, available at: [accessed 18 February 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

In 2002, Guatemala hosted 730 refugees, including 500 Nicaraguans and 180 Salvadorans.

Until 2001, the Mexico office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) adjudicated asylum claims in Guatemala, which reportedly resulted in long delays for asylum seekers. In October 2001, Guatemala established a national process for determining refugee claims. A refugee office in the Migration Directorate was tasked with interviewing asylum applicants and making status recommendations to an eligibility committee comprised of representatives of various government ministries. The process had not begun to operate by the end of 2002, however.

An unknown number of persons hoping to reach the United States through Mexico transit through Guatemala every year. Guatemala generally detains the migrants, some of whom apply for asylum. The United States finances the deportation of nearly all extra regional migrants from Guatemala in an attempt to prevent them from reaching the U.S. border.

Guatemalan immigration agents trained by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service also implement a domestic immigration law-enforcement initiative. Although the program, known as Plan Coyote, is aimed at stopping smugglers, it generally only leads to the arrest and deportation of undocumented migrants.

According to UNHCR, the Guatemalan authorities release undocumented migrants who identify themselves as asylum seekers and permit them to live in a center run by non-governmental organizations while their asylum claims are reviewed. However, immigration officials reportedly often fail to report detained migrants' requests for asylum to UNHCR.

Internal Displacement

The conflict that caused much internal displacement in Guatemala ended in 1996, and many Guatemalan refugees have returned. Some formerly internally displaced Guatemalans seek land and assistance from the government to facilitate return to their former homes.

Human Rights Watch reported an escalation of political violence and continued impunity for human rights violators in Guatemala. Clandestine groups that may have links with the government security forces killed several human rights workers in 2002. According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, human rights advocates were the victims of more than 100 physical assaults during the year.

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