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Statement by UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi on U.S. asylum changes

GENEVA – UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is concerned about planned changes to the asylum system in the United States. We are worried that the proposed “Procedures for Asylum and Withholding of Removal, Credible Fear and Reasonable Fear Review”, currently being circulated for public comment, mark a departure from humanitarian policies and practices long championed by the United States and rooted in international law.

The United States has for decades been a global leader in the field of refugee protection, on which the lives and freedom of many depend – providing access to asylum on its territory, resettlement places for extremely vulnerable refugees hosted elsewhere, and as the largest humanitarian donor to refugee programmes around the world.

However, the changes contained in the pending regulation, combined with separate restrictions enacted in recent years, would mean that many people fleeing persecution would be unable to request, or obtain, protection in the United States.

The obligation to provide a safe haven to those fleeing armed conflict, violence or persecution reflects fundamental values rooted in many legal traditions, and is a core aspect of modern international law. We have urged our interlocutors in the government of the United States – and in all governments around the world – to keep this in mind as they decide what policy decisions are appropriate.

The timeless beacons of human compassion and moral duty have always been the guiding lights of the U.S. asylum system. At UNHCR, we deeply value our longstanding partnership with the government and the people of the United States. As always, we remain ready to offer the technical expertise we have acquired around the world to support the United States in finding solutions to the challenges it faces today in maintaining an asylum system that is safe, fair and humane.

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Originally published on UNHCR on 09 July 2020