New York, NY September 19, 2022 — The IRC is deeply concerned by the ongoing reports of state and local governments transporting asylum seekers into cities across the United States, often without the informed consent of the asylum seekers or coordination and planning with local governments and nonprofit organizations.
In recent weeks, state and local governments have been transporting asylum seekers to inland destinations by both bus and plane. Based on statements made by political leaders, these targets were chosen to maximize public awareness.
These poorly managed decisions by state and local officials, without coordination with destination cities and without any meaningful support for asylum seekers far from meeting the needs of people seeking safety in the United States, have instead resulted in asylum seekers losing out , confused, and cut off from humanitarian services in the destinations to which they were sent.
The IRC has seen firsthand how well-coordinated access to transport is a necessary element in a comprehensive humanitarian reception system for asylum seekers. Government-provided transportation could be a positive and practical part of a safe and orderly system, but transportation models need to evolve to include important safeguards and effective collaboration.
In response to reports of politically motivated, disorderly and unsafe transport practices, the IRC released new policy recommendations related to transport services to ensure a system that welcomes and protects the dignity of asylum seekers.
The IRC urges governments at all levels to restore order and humanity with the following recommendations:
- Trauma-informed process that focuses on the informed consent of asylum seekers: Transport must be provided as an informed and voluntary choice through a trauma-informed process. Asylum seekers should not be taken to a bus or flight without an opportunity to meaningfully explore their options with an aid worker in their best language. Transportation should not be offered to persons who do not have sponsors at the intended destination, nor to persons who are physically or emotionally unwilling or unable to travel.
- Essential humanitarian services before leaving the border: Asylum seekers must be able to obtain fresh food and water, undergo medical examinations, contact family members and collect their personal belongings.
- Humane treatment on buses and planes: Buses and planes should be equipped with essentials including toilets, food, water, hygiene kits and toys. Buses should also make regular stops to allow for rest and mobility.
- Communication between border administrations and target cities: Border states and cities that initiate trips must ensure that the relevant authorities in the destination cities are regularly informed of departures.
- Inviting infrastructure in the target cities: Individuals should be received in the target cities by an infrastructure designed to welcome them with dignity. Asylum seekers must have immediate access to humanitarian services, legal guidance and referrals to case management programs.
Daniel Bloch, Specialist for Asylum and Protection at tIRC said:
Asylum seekers are adults and children who have fled violence and persecution abroad and are now seeking safety and freedom through a legal process in the United States. Disorderly transports for asylum seekers without key protection or coordination further endanger them. Your life shouldn’t be the subject of media stunts.
Ensuring a safe, orderly, and dignified coordinated humanitarian reception system for asylum seekers reflects American values. Transportation from the border to other US cities can be a positive and practical part of this system, but it requires important measures to protect asylum seekers and deliberate coordination with destination cities. Asylum-seekers must be given information to make meaningful decisions about their journey, and be granted access to essential humanitarian services at the border, during transport and on arrival. Border management must communicate and cooperate with relevant authorities in target cities to ensure a dignified response.
The IRC and our partners at the US borders and inland have shown time and again that they are ready to welcome asylum seekers. We call on leaders at all levels to work with the community and civil society to implement necessary changes and ensure a safe, orderly and humane asylum system.