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UN agencies call for more collaboration over refugee, migration crisis in Americas

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have called for greater multilateral action to regularize movement across the continent of the Americas. The agencies issued a joint statement expressing concern over fresh restrictions on migrants and refugees following the United States' lifting of a COVID-19 pandemic-era measure known as Title 42. They called for a more collaborative approach to better respond to the anticipated impact of changes on the southern US border.

The UNHCR and IOM said that a plan must be based on international law and genuine solidarity to advance protection and solutions for refugees and migrants and align with the framework laid out by the Global Compact on Refugees, Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, as well as the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection.

While welcoming positive initiatives to expand resettlement and other regular pathways in the region, the agencies expressed concern about new restrictions on access to asylum following the "long overdue" lifting of Title 42. They stressed that barriers preventing people from exercising the fundamental human right to seek asylum are unacceptable and contrary to States' international obligations.
The agencies also emphasized that joint efforts are required to address the causes of displacement and irregular migration. They said that more could be done through support to communities hosting the majority of displaced people, providing access to fair and effective asylum procedures and other legal stay arrangements, and facilitating access to safe and regular pathways as alternatives to perilous journeys.

The UNHCR and IOM said that a more effective response calls for collaborative engagement by States and other stakeholders to expand access to protection and asylum and regular pathways to migration, while strengthening solutions. They also urged that expanding resettlement and other regular pathways cannot replace the responsibility of States to provide people with access to territory and asylum procedures.

UNHCR and IOM are ready to work with all countries and existing regional mechanisms to make this a reality. However, any return agreements between States, including of asylum-seekers to a third country, must uphold in practice the principle of non-refoulement, the prohibition on forced return of people to situations where their lives and safety are at risk, they stressed.
The challenges facing the Americas call for ambitious, innovative, and principled cooperation among all stakeholders, the agencies said.