The UN human rights chief warned on Wednesday against US President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, saying the country needed better leadership to meet grave challenges like surging xenophobia and religious discrimination.
“Greater and more consistent leadership is needed to address the recent surge in discrimination, anti-Semitism, and violence against ethnic and religious minorities,” Zeid bin Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein told the main annual session of the UN rights council in Geneva, in his latest swipe at the new US leader.
Zeid also blasted the new US policy banning entry of people from six Muslim-majority countries for 90 days, announced on Monday after Trump’s controversial first attempt was blocked in the courts.
“I am concerned by the new administration’s handling of a number of human rights issues,” he said.
“Vilification of entire groups such as Mexicans and Muslims, and false claims that migrants commit more crimes than U.S. citizens, are harmful and fuel xenophobic abuses,” Zeid added.
And, taking direct aim at Trump personally, Zeid said he was “dismayed at attempts by the president to intimidate or undermine journalists and judges.”
Major media organizations as well as press freedom groups have accused Trump of threatening reporters in an unprecedented manner for a president, including by referring to the media as “the enemy of the people.”
The revised policies would greatly increase the number of migrants at immediate risk of deportation, regardless of the number of years spent in the United States or family roots, Zeid said.
“Expedited deportations could amount to collective expulsions and refoulement, in breach of international law, if undertaken without due process guarantees, including individual assessment,” Zeid said, referring to the UN Refugee Convention that prohibits sending back people who are fleeing war, violence or persecution.
He was particularly concerned about the impact of children “who face being detained, or may see their families torn apart”.