‘Severe’ new US asylum restrictions will put vulnerable families at risk, UN refugee agency says

UNHCR/Daniel Dreifuss Asylum-seekers queue for a meal at El Barretal shelter in Tijuana, Mexico. (4 December 2018)

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


Deeply concerned about the new rule barring from asylum the majority of people crossing the southern land border of the United States, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, has warned that the ‘severe’ measure will endanger vulnerable people in need of international protection from violence or persecution.

“We understand that the U.S. asylum system is under significant strain. And we are ready to play a constructive role if needed in helping alleviate this strain,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said on Monday.

The new rule was set to become effective on Tuesday, 16 July, according to media reports, and Mr. Grandi said that it will put vulnerable families at risk. It will undermine efforts by countries across the region to devise the coherent, collective responses that are needed.

UNHCR says that by the text of the rule, individuals entering the US across the country’s southern land border will be regarded as ineligible for asylum if they passed through another country first and did not attempt to seek asylum there before moving to the US border, regardless of whether they had access to effective international protection in those transit countries.

“This measure is severe and is not the best way forward,” Mr. Grandi stated.

People have been leaving parts of Central America in growing numbers in recent years for reasons ranging from extreme economic deprivation to persecution, says the UN refugee agency. Many of them are fleeing horrific violence by brutal gangs and are in need of international protection.

UNHCR called last month on the governments of countries in the Americas to meet urgently to develop and implement immediately a coordinated regional response to the growing numbers of people leaving Central America.

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