The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) expressed concern on Wednesday over the resumption of the U.S. practice of flying non-Mexican asylum seekers and migrants to southern Mexico after expelling them under a U.S. health law regulation implemented last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Individuals or families aboard those flights who may have urgent protection needs risk being sent back to the very dangers they have fled in their countries of origin in Central America without any opportunity to have those needs assessed and addressed," said the statement of the UNHCR.
The order, which invokes the public health provision of U.S. Code Title 42, was implemented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) under former President Donald Trump in March 2020 and allows the United States to "immediately" return individual and family migrants seeking asylum at the southern border due to pandemic concerns.
The U.S. government resumed the expedited removal of certain family units on Aug. 2, and said that it will continue to process individuals in accordance with the CDC's updated Title 42 provision.
The UNHCR noted that the expulsion flights come at a time when the flow of asylum seekers and migrants in the region "has increased considerably," and "will further strain the overburdened humanitarian response capacity in southern Mexico and heighten the risk of COVID-19 transmission across national borders."
It reiterated its call for the United States to "swiftly lift Title 42 public health-related asylum restrictions that remain in effect and to restore access to asylum for people whose lives depend on it."