US to welcome Ukraine refugees but no longer through Mexico

     Washington, Apr 21 (AP) The Biden administration is making it easier for refugees fleeing Russia's war on Ukraine to come to the United States from Europe while trying to shut down an informal route through northern Mexico that has emerged in recent weeks.
     A programme announced Thursday will streamline refugee applications for Ukrainians and others fleeing the fighting, but will no longer routinely grant entry to those who show up at the US-Mexico border seeking asylum, as thousands have done since the invasion ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin began almost two months ago.
     The US says it expects to admit up to 100,000 refugees from Ukraine and about 15,000 have come since the Feb 24 invasion, mostly through Mexico. Starting Monday, that route will no longer be an option except in extreme circumstances, officials said.
     It's an effort for the US to uphold its commitment to help Eastern European nations contend with the 5 million refugees who have fled Ukraine while trying to reduce the number of migrants seeking to cross the US-Mexico border, which has become a political challenge for President Joe Biden and his administration.
     “We are proud to deliver on President Biden's commitment to welcome 100,000 Ukrainians and others fleeing Russian aggression to the United States,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N Mayorkas said in a statement announcing the effort. “The Ukrainian people continue to suffer immense tragedy and loss as a result of Putin's unprovoked and unjustified attack on their country.”
     US officials say a majority of the Ukrainian refugees want to stay in Eastern Europe because they have family fighting in the war and eventually hope to return home.
     Advocates have said the US should take far more than 100,000 refugees and do more to expedite the process.
     To qualify for admission to the US under the new expedited programme, officially known as Uniting for Ukraine, people must have been in Ukraine as of Feb 11; have a family sponsor in the United States; complete vaccinations and other public health requirements and pass background checks.
     Typically, they would start the application process in their home country, but that's no longer possible because the US pulled its diplomats from Ukraine. The State Department will expand resettlement operations in Eastern Europe under the new programme to compensate.
     Most will receive two years of residence and authorisation to work in the United States under what's known as humanitarian parole. Those who coming to the US through the formal refugee process, including thousands who will come as members of religious minority groups, will have permanent legal residency.
     It will be a streamlined process in Europe, but refugees won't be able to complete it in Mexico, senior administration officials told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the program before the public announcement.
     Instead, Ukrainians who show up at the border will generally be turned away without being able to apply for asylum under a public health order known as Title 42 that has been in place since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
     The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has said the use of Title 42, which has been used to turn away more than 1.7 million people, is set to end May 23. The agency is under pressure to keep it in place not to control COVID-19, as it was supposedly intended, but to help ease an increase in migrants seeking to cross the border.
     Critics of the use of Title 42 at the border have pointed out that it denies people their right under US law and international treaty to make claims for asylum and forces migrants to return to dangerous conditions in Northern Mexico and elsewhere. (AP) SCY

(This story has not been edited by THE WEEK and is auto-generated from PTI)