US & Canada

Donald Trump wants asylum seekers to pay application fee

Migrants wait to receive food at the Casa del Refugiado, or The House of Refugee, a new centre opened by the Annunciation House to help the large flow of migrants being released by the United States Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement in El Paso, Texas Image copyright AFP
Image caption Migrants wait to receive food at the Casa del Refugiado

US President Donald Trump wants asylum seekers to pay a fee to have their applications processed in the latest move in his crackdown on migration.

The direction was given in a presidential memorandum on Monday, which called for a slew of new rules.

The president also wants to disqualify asylum seekers who enter the United States illegally from obtaining temporary work permits.

Critics say that fees would put the process out of reach for many people.

In his memo, Mr Trump said the fee would not exceed the cost of processing the applications, but estimates have not yet been provided of what this may be.

The vast majority of countries do not charge asylum application fees.

"The majority of people coming to the United States seeking asylum are coming with little more than the shirts on their back," Victoria Neilson, a former official at US Citizenship and Immigration Services, the government agency that accepts asylum applications, told Reuters news agency.

Under the current system, asylum seekers who enter the US both legally and illegally are allowed to work while their claims are processed.

Mr Trump said regulations should be drawn up to ensure that asylum claims are adjudicated in immigration court within 180 days, except under exceptional circumstances.

While asylum cases are already meant to be finished within this timeframe, a backlog of more than 800,000 cases means that asylum claims can take years to be completed.

The orders given by Mr Trump to the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security mark a dramatic shift in US policy.

He has given officials 90 days to come up with the new regulations.

The orders come amid Mr Trump's efforts to stem the surge of Central American migrants trying to cross into the US.

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