The United Nations Refugee Agency has criticized a decision by the Supreme Court of the United States allowing the administration of president Donald Trump to bar migrants, mainly from Central America, from seeking asylum in the country.
Earlier this week, the country’s highest court issued an unsigned brief that the administration may fully enforce a new rule that would curtail asylum applications by immigrants at the US-Mexico border while the underlying legality of the rule moves through the country’s lower court.
The UN said it regretted the decision.
The Supreme Court has allowed – for now – a rule that broadly blocks migrants who have travelled through a third country – say Honduras or Guatemala – from seeking asylum in the United States without first having applied for asylum in those transit countries and been denied.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees believes the move will hurt people fleeing violence and persecution who are entitled to protection.
Spokesperson Andrej Mahecic says: “We have taken note of the order from the US Supreme Court allowing this policy to be implemented while challenges to move it forward in lower courts. We have stated our views on this policy clearly and publicly and may I remind you of our statement on 15 July, there was a press release on this matter. And we regret the impact that implementation will have on asylum-seekers. We reiterate that any person fleeing violence or persecution must be able to access full and effective asylum procedures and international protection.”
The Agency is particularly concerned with the fate of Central Americans, including families and unaccompanied children, who are on the move in need of safety.
“Our concern is with the people – families, unaccompanied children and other individuals – moving through Mexico today from Central America and elsewhere that are in urgent need of a safe haven. It is imperative that those people be identified quickly and afforded the safety and assistance that they need and they deserve including the right to seek asylum. The Supreme Court does not address the substance of the policy in question. It was issued with specific reference to the proceedings that are in progress in lower courts and that will continue to move forward. We trust that the US courts will make the final determination on the merit of the case that reflects consciousness of the protection risks involved.”
The International Organisation for Migration says close to 40 000 migrants are believed to be at the border area between Mexico and the United States.
The issue was also raised with the UN Chief Antonio Guterres.
“As you know, in the United Nations, the authority in refugees is the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. I was United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for 10 years. And it happens that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees already pronounced himself today on that. I want to say that I fully support the pronouncement of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.”
The Supreme Court decision temporarily undid a lower court ruling that blocked the implementation of the new asylum policy affecting mainly people from central America but also asylum seekers from Africa, Asia and South America who arrive at the southern border.
The High Court’s decision allows the administration to move ahead with the policy while the substance of the issue continues to be litigated in the lower courts.