GENEVA - The U.S. administration's asylum policy may be in breach of international human rights law, said U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.
Policies that restrict migration must be in compliance with standards that do not put people's lives at risk, she said, adding that migrants unable to enter a country through a legal crossing point will find other routes, which could put them in danger.
She also expressed reservations about the new Trump administration policy of keeping asylum-seekers waiting on the Mexican side of the border until their cases come to court. Before anyone is returned to Mexico, she said, the United States must study the case to determine whether the person is a refugee and entitled to international protection.
"We believe that the policy measures that have been adopted by countries, and in the case of the United States, some countries, like Central American countries, are putting people in more vulnerable situations," Bachelet said.
Bachelet told VOA she is opposed to the U.S. policy of family separation, adding that she has received reports that family separations also are occurring in Mexico. She noted that in July, the U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee said that hundreds of children have been separated from their families since the Trump administration's zero-tolerance policy was enacted in June 2018.
"We do believe that the arbitrary separation of families constitutes an arbitrary and unlawful interference with family life and a grave violation of the rights of the child," Bachelet said. "It is against all the legal conventions and international human rights law and the laws of the child."
Detaining children for longer than 21 days is both unconscionable and unlawful, she said, adding that she has heard it could take up to two years before asylum cases are adjudicated. She called on U.S. authorities to speed up the process and to ensure that asylum-seekers are protected while they are waiting.