U.N. concerned by reinstatement of Trump-era 'Remain in Mexico' border policy

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FILE PHOTO: Migrants, asylum seekers sent back to Mexico from the U.S. under the Remain in Mexico program officially named Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), are seen at provisional campsite near the Rio Bravo in Matamoros

GENEVA (Reuters) - The United Nations said on Friday it was concerned by the reinstatement of a policy put in place by former President Donald Trump that forced tens of thousands of migrants to wait in Mexico for the resolution of their U.S. asylum cases.

A U.S. appeals court on Monday rejected a renewed attempt by the Biden administration to end the policy - often referred to as "Remain in Mexico", and officially called the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP).

President Joe Biden, a Democrat, scrapped his Republican predecessor's policy soon after taking office in January this year. But after Texas and Missouri sued over the rescission, a federal judge ruled it had to be reinstated.

"We are concerned about the re-implementation of the Migrant Protection Protocol and the risk that it poses on the already stretched humanitarian capacity of Mexico to receive migrants," UN Human Rights Office spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani told reporters in Geneva.

"We are concerned that any kind of heightened security procedures to deal with migration will only drive migrants further into unsafe routes and we are afraid that we will see more resort to the dangerous routes and to smuggling networks."

Under the 2019 policy, migrants seeking asylum must wait weeks and sometimes years in Mexico for a U.S. court date instead of being allowed to await their hearings in the United States. Biden decried the policy on the campaign trail and immigration advocates have said migrants stuck in dangerous border cities have faced kidnappings and other dangers.

Nancy Izzo Jackson, Senior Bureau Official for the U.S. Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, told reporters on Thursday: "We are trying to make it a much more humane policy, even as we work to appeal (the) decision in the courts."

The number of migrants caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border has soared to record highs this year, sparking criticism from Republicans.

Many migrants arrested at the border, however, are quickly expelled without being given a chance to even seek asylum under a different Trump policy put in place at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, which Biden has kept in place.

(Reporting by Paul Carrel; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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