UNICEF has expressed concern that the re-enforcement of Migrant Protection Protocols (MPPs) at the US southern border with Mexico, as required by a court order, could threaten the safety and the well-being of asylum-seeking children and their families.
The MPP is a US government program, launched on January 1, 2019, under former President Donald Trump. Known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy, it requires certain citizens and nationals of countries other than Mexico to be returned to Mexico while their U.S. deportation process is pending.
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The MPP applies to those arriving by land from Mexico.
“After the initial implementation of the MPP in January 2019, more than 70,000 asylum seekers were forced to return to Mexico until US immigration courts could resolve their cases. Those subject to the MPP , including many children and adolescents, have waited for months in makeshift shelters and camps in Mexico without access to proper housing, hygiene, nutrition and essential services,” the UN agency said. in a press release.
While Unicef welcomes “the U.S. government’s commitments to help Central American countries address the root causes of migration and provide humanitarian assistance to those in need,” it asserted that the MPP could have “profound consequences for children, many of whom have been left without safe options to escape dire conditions and threats in their home countries”.
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“All migrant children have the right to protection, to essential services, to live in adequate conditions with dignity and to be with their families.
“Children – wherever they come from or whatever their migration status – are children first. It is imperative that all governments prioritize the protection and well-being of children in accordance with their best interests. and ensure their access to asylum procedures in a timely manner,” the UNICEF statement added.
In a memorandum released on June 1, the Secretary of Homeland Security said the MPP should be terminated.
However, on August 13, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas ruled that the June 1 memo did not comply with the Administrative Procedure Act and ordered DHS to “enforce and implement the MPP in good faith”.
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Following the Department of Homeland Security’s extensive review, the Department issued a new memorandum terminating the MPP on October 29. DHS will implement the new memorandum as soon as possible after the release of the final court ruling overturning the Texas injunction.
Until then, as per the order, the MPP has been restarted and on Wednesday US authorities returned the first two migrants to Mexico under the reinstated “Remain in Mexico” policy.
(With agency contributions)