Human Rights Watch Criticizes US Asylum App, Alleges Migrant Vulnerability

Human Rights Watch criticizes US asylum policy forcing migrants to use CBP One app, alleging it leaves them vulnerable to cartel violence in Mexico and violates non-refoulement principle.

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Salman Akhtar
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Human Rights Watch Criticizes US Asylum App, Alleges Migrant Vulnerability

Human Rights Watch Criticizes US Asylum App, Alleges Migrant Vulnerability

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has strongly criticized a new US requirement that compels asylum seekers to use a mobile app called CBP One to apply for an appointment before crossing the border from Mexico. The human rights organization alleges that this policy leaves migrants vulnerable to cartel violence in Mexico and violates the principle of nonrefoulement.

Under the new system, which went into effect this year, all asylum seekers except unaccompanied minors must sign up for an appointment with US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) via the CBP One app or have their asylum request denied by another country before attempting to cross the US-Mexico border. Failure to comply results in their asylum request being presumed illegitimate, risking deportation and a five-year ban on entering the United States.

HRW argues that this "digital metering" approach forces migrants to wait in northern Mexican states and other parts of Mexico, where they are "systematically targeted by cartels" for various forms of abuse, including kidnapping, extortion, and sexual assault. The report states, "This 'digital metering' system caters to the interests of cartels, who consistently prey upon the vulnerable migrant population in northern Mexican states and other transit cities, subjecting them to kidnapping, extortion, sexual assault, and other abuses."

The human rights group also points out that the CBP One app is only available in English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole, making it difficult for many asylum seekers to use due to language barriers. Additionally, the report notes that many migrants struggle with technical difficulties when trying to access and navigate the app.

Why this matters: The criticism from Human Rights Watch highlights the ongoing challenges and potential human rights violations faced by asylum seekers at the US-Mexico border. The report raises concerns about the safety and well-being of migrants who are forced to wait in dangerous areas of Mexico due to the new digital appointment system.

HRW is urging the Biden administration to immediately rescind the asylum rule, end all practices of metering, and stop collaborating with Mexico and other states to block asylum claims in the United States. The organization recommends that if the CBP One app is to be used as a scheduling tool, it should be updated to include more language options, such as Arabic, French, Chinese, Russian, Portuguese, and Indigenous American languages.

Key Takeaways

  • HRW criticizes new US asylum policy requiring CBP One app use.
  • Policy leaves migrants vulnerable to cartel violence in Mexico.
  • App only available in English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole.
  • Failure to comply risks deportation and 5-year US entry ban.
  • HRW urges Biden admin to rescind asylum rule and update app.