US deportation flights to Guatemala resume

World

A firefighter wearing gear to protect against the coronavirus disinfects an ambulance outside the COVID-19 unit at San Juan de Dios hospital in Guatemala City, Monday, June 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — The United States resumed deportation flights to Guatemala Tuesday, nearly a month after the Central American country refused to accept them.

A flight from Alexandria, Louisiana landed in the Guatemalan capital Tuesday afternoon. The plane carried 40 adults and 10 children.

At least 186 Guatemalan deportees had tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving in the country even after U.S. assurances that they were healthy.

The flights scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday this week will carry fewer deportees, about 50, said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Patricia Letona. She did not provide details on any new procedures to guarantee the health of the deportees.

“We have already requested specific information with respect to the coordination” with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and what health protocols they will follow, she said.

Alejandra Mena, spokeswoman for the National Immigration Institute, said all deportees who arrived Tuesday came with medical certificates from the U.S. saying they were free of the virus. But she said the Health Ministry would test them all anyway.

The Foreign Ministry says about 5,500 Guatemalans are in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. More than 2,500 of those have a final deportation order and the remainder still have a pending process.

Two more flights are scheduled for next week.

The presidential commission in charge of the government’s response to the health crisis made the decision to resume the flights, Letona said.

Guatemala suspended the flights after nearly all of the 65 passengers aboard a May 13 flight tested positive. Some “humanitarian” flights carrying unaccompanied children and families detained at the U.S. southwest border had been allowed to continue.

Since the epidemic began in Guatemala in mid-March, the country has received 2,160 deportees from the U.S., including adults and children.

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