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UNHCR: A Coordinated Regional Approach Needed to Resolve US Asylum Problem


FILE - In this May 30, 2019 file photo, Honduran migrant children eat a meal at the Jesus el Buen Pastor del Pobre y el Migrante shelter in Tapachula, Chiapas state, Mexico. The federal government will be opening a facility at an Army base in…

The U.N. refugee agency is reiterating its call for countries in the Americas to work together to develop a coordinated regional response to the growing Central American migration and asylum problem.

The U.N. refugee agency expresses deep concern about the Trump Administration’s new asylum policy, warning it will put vulnerable families at risk. It says the measure sharply curtails the right of people to apply for asylum and jeopardizes their right of protection against deportation to a country where their lives and well-being may be in danger.

UNHCR spokeswoman Liz Throssell says the new rule violates international refugee law, which states persons fleeing persecution have the right to international protection.

“We refer often to the gang violence that is endemic in some of the countries of the north of Central America,” said Throssell. "So, what we are saying is that many of the people are fleeing violence and persecution and they are in need of international protection. And our concerns with these restrictions is that it really is causing problems, excessively curtailing the right to seek asylum.”

At the same time, Throssell says the UNHCR understands the growing movement of people heading for the U.S. southern border is putting the United States asylum system under significant strain. She says her agency is ready to play a constructive role in helping to alleviate the strain.

“So, I think this plays into what we would say is—this is a hugely complex problem that clearly needs to be addressed and that is why we are calling on the regional governments to get together to try and start developing a regional, coordinated response,” said Throssell.

The UNHCR reports 245,000 people were internally displaced by violence in Honduras and El Salvador by the end of last year. Because of continued criminality and persistent violence, it says many of these people may feel they have no other option except to move on and seek asylum in the United States.

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