A Ukrainian mother and her three children have been allowed into the United States after being turned back to Mexico under a widely criticised pandemic measure that bars entry to most asylum seekers who arrive at the US border, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) confirmed.
The San Diego Union-Tribune first reported late on Wednesday that the 34-year-old woman and her children were turned away at the US southern border under Title 42, a contentious policy first invoked by former President Donald Trump in March 2020 due to the coronavirus.
In a statement to Al Jazeera late on Thursday, the Homeland Security Department said the Ukrainian family was allowed into the country after a review of the facts of their case. “DHS is continuing to exempt particularly vulnerable individuals from Title 42 on a case by case basis,” it said.
More than 1.6 million Title 42 expulsions have been carried out to date, according to US government data. Rights groups have repeatedly denounced the policy as a violation of international law that puts already vulnerable people at risk of violence, rape, extortion and other threats in Mexico or other countries they are sent.
“I’m not asking for anything from the United States, just to be let in,” the Ukrainian woman, who used the name Sofia, told the Union-Tribune after being turned away. “All we need is to be safe. All we want is to keep our lives safe.”https://www.youtube.com/embed/uI_GA7RI060?version=3&rel=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&fs=1&hl=en-US&autohide=2&wmode=transparent
‘Terrible and inhumane’
The case comes as Russia’s bombardment of Ukrainian cities intensifies and Russian troops advance towards the capital, Kyiv. The conflict has forced more than 2.5 million people to flee the country, according to the United Nations, with most refugees heading to neighbouring nations in Europe.
The Associated Press news agency reported that the woman and her children left Ukraine on February 27, just days after Russia launched its all-out invasion, going first to Moldova and Romania before arriving in Mexico this week. The family was seeking to join relatives in the US, both AP and the Union-Tribune said.
Rights groups have urged Biden to do more to help guarantee safe passage to all those seeking to leave, as well as protect Ukrainians already in the US. Last week, the US administration announced it would extend what’s known as Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Ukrainians in the country, saying the conflict made it unsafe for them to return to Ukraine.