The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today welcomed proposed legislation in the United States that would improve the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.
The Refugee Protection Act of 2001, which was introduced in the US Congress yesterday, would reduce the likelihood that refugees will be returned to countries where they may face persecution, and would promote alternatives to detention for asylum-seekers.
UNHCR has expressed concern over the current expedited procedures for processing asylum claims at US entry points, an agency spokesman said. To safeguard against the erroneous exclusion of asylum-seekers, the Act would limit this process to "immigration emergencies," when individual examinations are not possible.
UNHCR has also urged the United States not to imprison asylum seekers and to consider alternatives to detention. The proposed legislation states that it is US policy not to detain asylum seekers who have established a credible fear of persecution, and specifically calls for alternatives to detention, for improved access to legal services and improved conditions in facilities that are used exclusively for Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) detainees, the spokesman said.