Header image for news printout

US travel ban: “New policy breaches Washington’s human rights obligations” – UN experts

GENEVA (1 February 2017) – A group of United Nations human rights experts today said that the Executive Order signed by US President Donald Trump on 27 January 2017 breaches the country’s international human rights obligations, which protect the principles of non-refoulement and non-discrimination based on race, nationality or religion.

The Presidential Executive Order bars all nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries -Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen- from entering the US for the next 90 days.

“Such an order is clearly discriminatory based on one’s nationality and leads to increased stigmatization of Muslim communities ,” said the UN Special Rapporteurs on migrants, François Crépeau; on racism, Mutuma Ruteere; on human rights and counter-terrorism, Ben Emmerson; on torture, Nils Melzer; and on freedom of religion, Ahmed Shaheed.

“The US recent policy on immigration also risks people being returned, without proper individual assessments and asylum procedures, to places in which they risk being subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, in direct contravention of international humanitarian and human rights laws which uphold the principle of non-refoulement,” they warned.

The Executive Order applies to those who come from these countries-whether or not they have valid visa documents or are in transit. It also affects those who have dual nationality, who either have a passport from one of those countries or are travelling from one of those countries. Those currently residing in the US may be able to fly to the US but entry is not guaranteed.

“This is deeply troubling, and we are additionally concerned that such persons travelling to the US will be subject to detention for an undefined period of time and then ultimately deported,” the human rights experts said.

The Executive Order stops the entire US refugee programme for 120 days, indefinitely bans Syrian refugees, and halts the planned entry of more than 50,000 refugees in the US fiscal year 2017, which began in October 2016 and will end in September 2017. 

“In the midst of the world’s greatest migration crisis since World War II, this is a significant setback for those who are obviously in need of international protection. The US must live up to its international obligations and provide protection for those fleeing persecution and conflicts,” the human rights experts stressed. “The US is also involved in conflicts such as those in Iraq and Syria and its responsibility must extend to offering refuge to those fleeing from the conflicts.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

Read the International Convention for the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families

UN Human Rights, country page: United States

For more information and media requests, please contact:
Elizabeth Wabuge (+41 22 917 9138 / ewabuge@ohchr.org)
Alice Ochsenbein (+41 22 917 9830 / aochsenbein@ohchr.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, OHCHR Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

Tag and share - Twitter: @UNHumanRights and Facebook: unitednationshumanrights