By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA -United Nations agencies on Tuesday voiced concern at the United States’ deportation of migrants back to Haiti, saying that people massed along the border who feared violence or persecution at home had a right to seek asylum.
A camp under a bridge over the Rio Grande on the border between Mexico and Texas has become the latest flashpoint for U.S. authorities seeking to stem a flow of migrants fleeing extreme violence or poverty in their home countries.
The camp has held more than 12,000 migrants, most of them from Haiti, hoping to apply for asylum in the United States.
“We are disturbed by the images that we have seen and by the fact that we have seen all these migrants and refugees and asylum-seekers in transport to Port-au-Prince,” U.N. human rights spokesperson Marta Hurtado told a briefing in Geneva.
“We are seriously concerned by the fact that it appears there have not been any individual assessments of the cases … and that therefore maybe some of these people have not received the protection that they needed.”
The first flights carrying migrants from the Del Rio camp arrived in Haiti on Sunday https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/expelled-texas-returned-haitians-lament-lost-american-dream-2021-09-20, with at least three more due to make the journey on Monday, according to the flight tracking website Flightaware.
“While some people arriving at the border may not be refugees, anyone who … claims to have a well-founded fear of being persecuted in their country of origin – they should have access to asylum and to have their claim assessed before being subjected to expulsion or deportation,” U.N. refugee agency spokesperson Shabia Mantoo told the briefing.
The United States is expelling migrants under an order issued in March 2020 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which cited the need to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
The office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is in dialogue with the U.S. administration, Mantoo said.
“We have been calling for an end to these ‘Title 42′ public health-related asylum restrictions for quite some time, and to ensure access to asylum for those who lives really depend on it,” she said.