By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA (Reuters) – The United Nations refugee agency said on Friday a U.S. Supreme Court order curbing asylum applications at the Mexican border could hurt people fleeing violence and persecution who are entitled to protection.
The court said on Wednesday the Trump administration’s rule – which requires most immigrants to seek asylum in other countries on their route to the United States – could go into effect as litigation challenging its legality continues.
All people must be able to access full asylum procedures and international protection, UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic told a news briefing.
“We regret the impact that the 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,” Mahecic said.
The agency was concerned about the fate of Central Americans, including families and unaccompanied children, who are on the move in need of safe haven, he said.
“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,” Mahecic said.
Mahecic, asked whether the ruling and policy was in violation of the 1951 Refugee Convention, which the United States has ratified, said that the Supreme Court did not address the substance of the policy, pending lower court proceedings.
“So it would be premature to speculate,” he said.
The Mexican government protested and Central American migrants feared deportation back to their violent homelands on Thursday after the U.S. Supreme Court allowed President Donald Trump to slam the door on asylum-seekers at the U.S.-Mexican border.
Tens of thousands of migrants and would-be asylum seekers are gathered on the U.S.-Mexico border, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said.
“Just over 36,500 are believed to be on the border area, they remain in Mexico,” IOM spokesman Joel Millman said.
“But of course we don’t know how many of those are formal asylum seekers,” he added.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Catherine Evans and Andrew Heavens)