Roundup: UN chief urges U.S. to remove travel ban on Muslim refugees, immigrants at early date

UNITED NATIONS-- UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday voiced serious concern over the negative impact of the latest U.S. policy, which blocks entry of Muslim refugees into the North American country, saying that this measure "should be removed sooner rather than later."

In his response to recent U.S. policy shift on longstanding refugee program, Guterres told reporters here that resettlement is often "the only possible solution" for people fleeing conflict and persecution.

The Executive Order, signed by U.S. President Donald Trump on Jan. 27 bars all nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries -- Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen -- from entering the United States for the next 90 days.

It also stops the entire U.S. refugee program for 120 days, indefinitely bans Syrian refugees, and halts the planned entry of more than 50,000 refugees in the U.S. fiscal year 2017, which began in October 2016 and will end in September 2017.

The new policy shift led to strong protesters in Washington D.C. and across more than 30 airports inside the United States, and touched off strong criticism in the other parts of the world as well.

Asked about the impact of the Executive Order, the secretary-general said resettlement is "a must," and "Syrians are those that at present have the most dramatic needs."

"In my opinion, this is not the way to best protect the U.S. or any other country in relation to the serious concerns that existed about the possibility of terrorist infiltration," he said while briefing the reporters here on his first Africa tour as the UN chief."I don't think this is the effective way to do so."

"What was lacking was a capacity to have a comprehensive approach to the problem," he said of the U.S. ban, adding that it is very important to review "the very dramatic situations the refugees are facing when they have no chance to reach protection."

"And I think this measure should be removed sooner, rather than later," the UN chief said.

"Refugees fleeing conflict and persecution are finding more and more borders closed and increasingly restricted access to the protection they need and are entitled to receive, according to international refugee law," the statement said.

While acknowledging that "countries have the right, even the obligation, to responsibly manage their borders to avoid infiltration by members of terrorist organizations," the UN chief said in the statement, adding that because the ban "is gainst the fundamental principles and values on which our societies are based."

Also expressing concern that the new Executive Order is in breach of the country's human rights commitments, a group of UN rights experts have called on the United States to live up to its human rights obligations and provide protection for those fleeing persecution and conflicts.

"The U.S. recent policy on immigration also risks people being returned, without proper individual assessments and asylum procedures, to places in which they risk being subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, in direct contravention of international humanitarian and human rights laws which uphold the principle of non-refoulement," they warned.

"The U.S. is also involved in conflicts such as those in Iraq and Syria and its responsibility must extend to offering refuge to those fleeing from the conflicts," they said.

According to a news release, the Executive Order also applies to those who come from the countries listed -- whether or not they have valid visa documents or are in transit.

It also affects those who have dual nationality, who either have a passport from one of those countries or are travelling from one of those countries. Furthermore, those currently residing in the U.S. may be able to fly to the U.S. but entry is not guaranteed.

"This is deeply troubling, and we are additionally concerned that such persons travelling to the U.S. will be subject to detention for an undefined period of time and then ultimately deported," they added

Source: Philippines News Agency

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