US Attorney General Jeff Sessions. AFP

The US attorney general has ruled that victims of domestic abuse and gang violence should no longer generally qualify for asylum in the US.

Jeff Sessions’ ruling overturns a 2016 decision which granted asylum to a woman from El Salvador who had been raped and abused by her husband.

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America’s top law official said the “asylum statute is not a general hardship statute”.

Activists say the move will affect tens of thousands of asylum applications.

“Generally, claims by aliens pertaining to domestic violence or gang violence perpetrated by non-governmental actors will not qualify for asylum,” Sessions wrote in his ruling.

He added: “The mere fact that a country may have problems effectively policing certain crimes – such as domestic violence or gang violence – or that certain populations are more likely to be victims of crime, cannot itself establish an asylum claim.”