GENEVA, Switzerland – New border enforcement measures recently announced by the US administration risk undermining the basic foundations of international human rights and refugee law, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk, warned.
“The right to seek asylum is a human right, no matter a person’s origin, immigration status, nor how they arrived at an international border,” said Türk.
“These measures appear to be at variance with the prohibition of collective expulsion and the principle of non-refoulement,” the UN human rights chief said.
The announced changes include increased use of expedited removals and expansion of the use of the Title 42 public health order to permit the fast-track expulsion to Mexico of some 30,000 Venezuelans, Haitians, Cubans and Nicaraguans each month. Title 42 has already been used by US immigration officials some 2.5 million times at the southern border to expel people to Mexico or their home country without an individualised assessment of all their protection needs accompanied by due process and procedural safeguards.
At the same time, a “humanitarian parole” programme, which was previously extended to Venezuelans, would be expanded to include nationals of Cuba, Haiti and Nicaragua, allowing some 30,000 individuals per month from these four countries to come to the US for a limited period of two years with strict conditions for eligibility.
“While I welcome measures to create and expand safe and regular pathways, such initiatives should not come at the expense of fundamental human rights, including the right to seek asylum and the right to an individual assessment of protection needs. Limited access to humanitarian parole for some cannot be a replacement for upholding the rights of all to seek protection of their human rights,” he said, reinforcing the concerns of UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.
The High Commissioner also expressed concern that those most in need of asylum and those in vulnerable situations are unlikely to meet the restrictive requirements to be granted humanitarian parole, including having a financial sponsor in the USA.
The High Commissioner reiterated his call for the human rights of all refugees and migrants to be respected and protected at international borders.
“We hear a great deal of talk about migration crises, but in reality, it is those migrating who often are the ones truly in crisis. Rather than vilifying them and stripping them of long-recognized rights, we should be seeking to govern migration humanely and safely with full respect for the human rights of every individual.”