UN ‘seriously concerned’ about mass US deportations of Haitians

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The United Nations voiced deep concern Tuesday at mass US deportations of Haitian migrants, warning that people with serious asylum claims may be at risk.

The UN human rights and refugee agencies stressed that everyone applying for asylum has a right to have their claims considered.

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“We are seriously concerned by the fact that it appears that there has not been any individual assessment in the (Haiti) cases,” spokeswoman Marta Hurtado told reporters in Geneva.

This, she said, indicated that “maybe some of these people have not received the protection that they needed.”

Shabia Mantoo, a spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency UNHCR, stressed that seeking asylum is “a fundamental human right.”

“We are calling for this right to be respected.”

Their comments came after Washington began sending planeloads full of Haitian nationals back to their crisis-wracked country over the weekend.

The deportation of Haitian migrants had been temporarily suspended by Washington after a devastating earthquake hit the Caribbean nation last month.

But those deportations have resumed, with pressure for fast action after more than 15,000 Haitians crossed into the United States in recent days from Mexico and found themselves stranded for days in Texas under a bridge spanning the Rio Grande river.

US President Joe Biden promised a more humane approach to immigration than his Republican predecessor Donald Trump, but the veteran Democrat has fought to stem the tide of migrants crossing the border since he took office in January.

He has faced mounting political pressure to swiftly address the issue from both Republicans and his fellow Democrats.

The US Customs and Border Protection said the “majority of migrants” would be expelled under the government’s Title 42 policy curtailing immigration due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mantoo reiterated UNHCR’s opposition to this policy, and the agency’s call on countries since the start of the pandemic to continue ensuring “access to asylum for those whose lives really depend on it.”

“There are ways to manage public health considerations... but to also ensure the right to seek asylum,” she said. “This can be done.”

UNHCR also meanwhile hailed the Biden administration Tuesday for its announcement that it will double the number of refugees it will accept in the next fiscal year to 125,000, amid rising pressure from people fleeing Afghanistan and other countries.

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