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UN migration and refugee agencies call out ‘fundamental’ right to asylum after US moves to restrict it

GENEVA (AP) — The U.N. migration and refugee agencies expressed concern about the Biden administration’s plans for new asylum restrictions in the United States, saying the right to asylum is fundamental.

President Joe Biden on Tuesday unveiled plans to immediately implement significant restrictions on migrants seeking asylum at the US-Mexico border, as the White House seeks to neutralize immigration as a political imperative ahead of the November election.

The move would prevent migrants from seeking asylum if officials believe the southern border with Mexico is overwhelmed. It comes after the collapse months ago of a bipartisan border security deal in Congress that most Republican lawmakers rejected at the urging of former President Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

Refugee agency UNHCR urged the US to “reconsider restrictions that undermine the fundamental right to seek asylum.”

“The new measures will deny access to asylum to many individuals in need of international protection, who may now have no viable option to seek safety and may even be at risk of refoulement,” the report said in a statement issued on Tuesday issued. referring to a term for returning people to places where they may face persecution.

“Any person who claims to have a well-founded fear of persecution in their country of origin should have access to safe territory and have this claim assessed before being subject to deportation or removal,” the organization added.

The U.N. International Organization for Migration, which is led by Amy Pope, a former senior adviser on migration to Biden, was more moderate.

“IOM recognizes the challenges posed by increasing irregular migrant crossings at the United States-Mexico border,” the organization said in an emailed statement to The Associated Press. “It is crucial that any measures taken to control migration respect the fundamental right to seek asylum, and that safe and regular migration routes are strengthened.”

Biden’s order will take effect when the number of border conflicts between ports of entry reaches 2,500 per day, senior administration officials said. This means that the order must come into effect immediately, because the daily averages are now higher.

The average number of daily arrests for illegal crossings from Mexico was last below 2,500 in January 2021, the month Biden took office. The last time the number of border contacts fell to 1,500 per day was in July 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The restrictions would be in effect until two weeks after the daily number of encounters is at or below 1,500 per day between ports of entry, below a seven-day average.

As migration increases around the world and millions of people flee wars, hunger, climate change or simply seek a better future for themselves and their families, wealthy countries have been looking for ways to limit the influx. Far-right populist parties have exploited the issue with anti-migration rhetoric to win votes in elections from Europe to the US and beyond.

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Grieshaber reported from Berlin.

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