Ukrainian refugees who are seeking asylum in the US are being detained in the country under a policy that bans asylum-seekers because of the pandemic.
The US immigration authorities have placed Ukrainian refugees in detention after they tried to enter the country to reach family or friends living in the United States, revealed Newsweek, citing documents from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement as well as interviews with relatives and immigration attorneys.
Ukrainians entering the US are being detained under a policy named Title 42, a Trump-era policy that was introduced at the start of the pandemic. The Biden administration also continued this policy citing public health concerns.
Immigration attorneys have said that they are aware of many detentions but as of now detention of at least five Ukrainians has been confirmed. Sources have also revealed several other cases but those are not verified yet.
At a time when Europe and other countries are opening their gates for Ukrainian refugees, the US seems to have stuck with this policy which is increasing challenges of the Ukrainians at the time of conflict.
ICE Detention Centre
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) documents and some fresh interviews have suggested that Washington is following the pandemic era policy to deal with the refugees at the time of war despite assurances by President Joe Biden that Ukrainians will get asylum in the US.
Detention in the upcoming weeks is expected to increase as the US administration is not revoking Title 42 and Ukrainians -- who have relatives and friends in the US -- are flooding into the country.
According to Newsweek, Alina Kutsenko said in a phone interview that her cousin Natalya Skalska, Natalya's husband Vitaliy and their three young children were detained March 14 by U.S. Customs and Border Protection as they tried to enter the U.S. from Mexico at the border crossing in San Ysidro, California. After being detained the husband was able to call family in the U.S. to let them know what happened, said Kutsenko, a Ukrainian immigrant who lives in Sacramento. Currently, the adults are in detention but it is not clear if children are with them or they are held separately.
Exemption From Title 42
Activists who are helping Ukrainians in the US have believed that Title 42 presented a major obstacle to Asylum seekers.
However, they can apply for an exemption from the rule, and border patrol officers have discretion on a case-by-case basis.
But so far exemptions have been granted in rare cases.
Nearly 1.6 million migrants seeking asylum in the US were expelled under this policy.
Last week, the US CDC made changes in this policy making it easier for unaccompanied minors. At that time the White House had maintained that it is the CDC that has to take a final decision on this policy.