UN: Countries Must Allow People at Risk to Request Asylum

The U.N. refugee agency is urging Washington to grant people fleeing persecution and violence, including those who are traveling with the Central American caravan, to request asylum on U.S. territory.

U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed to prevent a caravan of thousands of immigrants from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador from entering the United States.  He is sending 800 troops to safeguard the southwest border of the country.

The U.N. refugee agency will not weigh in on whether it is legal for a country to close its borders to refugees and asylum seekers. But it says international law clearly states any person whose life may be in danger has the right to seek asylum and benefit from international protection.

UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic told VOA his agency has alerted countries along the caravan’s route that it is likely to include people in real danger.

“Our position globally is that the individuals who are fleeing persecution and violence need to be given access to territory and protection including refugee status and determination procedure. And, if the people who are fleeing persecution and violence enter Mexico, they need to be provided access to the Mexican asylum system and those entering the United States need to be provided access to the American asylum system,” he said.  

Mahecic said the UNHCR is very concerned about the developing humanitarian situation along the migratory route.  He said there are kidnapping and security risks in the areas where the caravan may be venturing.  

He said it is urgent to stabilize the situation, to provide proper reception and to improve basic conditions for people on the move. In regard to people seeking asylum, he says their international protection needs must be properly assessed before any decision is taken on their return or deportation.

The Mexican Ministry of the Interior reports more than 1,740 asylum claims have been registered in Tapachula in the state of Chiapas.

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