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UNHCR welcomes the proposed US 2001 Refugee Protection Act

Briefing notes

UNHCR welcomes the proposed US 2001 Refugee Protection Act

3 August 2001

UNHCR welcomes the proposed Refugee Protection Act of 2001, which was introduced in the US Congress yesterday. The objective of the Act is to improve the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers in the US. If passed, it would reduce the likelihood that refugees will be returned to countries where they would face persecution, and would promote alternatives to detention for asylum-seekers.

UNHCR has expressed concern over the currently used expedited procedures for processing asylum claims at US entry points. 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 US not to imprison asylum seekers and to consider alternatives to detention. The proposed legislation states that it is the policy of the US 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.