The personal information of more than 6,000 detainees was mistakenly posted on the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) website for about five hours, the agency reported Wednesday.
The information included names, nationalities, detention centers in which they were held and numbers assigned for their identification in government files, according to Human Rights First, an activist group that discovered the leak on Monday.
The 6,252 people whose identities were exposed expressed fear of persecution if the courts reject their requests to remain in the United States and they are repatriated, Human Rights First said.
Eleanor Acer, the group’s director of refugee protection, expressed concern that detainees or their relatives are at risk in their home countries.
“In some countries people are attacked and suffer reprisals for applying for asylum,” Acer said.
ICE said an Excel spreadsheet was mistakenly posted “while routine updates were in progress” and that the agency removed the information from its public web page 11 minutes after it was alerted.
“Although unintentional, this release of information is a policy violation, and the agency is investigating the incident and taking any necessary corrective action,” the agency said in a statement.
ICE said it was in the process of informing the detainees and their lawyers about the leak, which was first reported by the Los Angeles Times. This will allow them to determine if it has an impact on their asylum claims.