US refugee admission signals drop as Trump pulls out of UN migration initiative
Refugee admissions to the United States were down 83 percent in the first two months of the fiscal year for 2018 - October and November - compared to the first two months of of the previous fiscal year 2017.
Published: December 5, 2017, 9:43 am
Only 3 108 refugees were admitted in October and November down from the 18 300 admitted in October and November of last year.
It has been fourteen months since the former Obama administration backed the UN move for “global responsibility” in accepting refugees and migrants. While Obama championed the declaration, Trump is steering the United States away from inviting migrants from Muslim countries to the US.
President Trump has proposed a refugee admission ceiling of 45 000 for FY 2018, the lowest ceiling set by an administration since the Refugee Act was passed in 1980. His administration is also withdrawing from a UN initiative called the Global Compact on Migration.
This week, the Trump Administration pulled out of the UN migrant intitiative, with US Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley stating that it was “simply not compatible with US sovereignty”.
Her announcement comes amid a sharp drop in the number of refugees admitted to the United States during the first two months of fiscal year 2018. The most striking change in the refugee admissions is reflected in the numbers from Syria, Somalia and Iraq.
In 2016, some 2 259 Syrians (97.6 percent Muslim, 1.7 percent Christian), 2 463 Somalis (99.9 percent Muslim) and 2 262 Iraqis (75 percent Muslim, 17.3 percent Christian, 7.4 percent Yazidi) were resettled.
This year, the numbers had dropped to 33 Syrians (66.6 percent Muslim, 33.3 percent Christian), 126 Somalis (100 percent Muslim) and 76 Iraqis (84.2 percent Muslim, 10.5 percent Christian, 3.9 percent Yazidi).
Among the 3 108 refugees admitted to the US this year, the five top countries were Bhutan (805), the Democratic Republic of Congo (627), Burma (347), Ukraine (290) and Eritrea (281).
Most – some 59.6 percent – were Christian, and the rest were 15.4 percent Muslim, 9.6 percent Buddhist, 7.6 percent Hindu, 4.7 percent Kirat.
In contrast, the Obama administration allowed asylum seekers from the DRC (4 236), Somalia (2 463), Iraq (2 262), Syria (2 259) and Burma (1 509). Of the 18 300 refugees, less than half were Christian.
The numbers reflect the differences in the two administrations’ approach on refugees, with the the Obama administration admitting 84 994 refugees during the last full fiscal year.
In a statement on Sunday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the US “simply cannot in good faith support a process that could undermine the sovereign right of the United States to enforce our immigration laws and secure our borders”.
“The United States supports international cooperation on migration issues, but it is the primary responsibility of sovereign states to help ensure that migration is safe, orderly, and legal.”
In September last year, a summit at the UN had adopted a consensus declaration – the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants – to work by 2018 towards consensus on a global compact on “sharing the refugee burden”.
Haley has dismissed the New York declaration, because it “contains numerous provisions that are inconsistent with US immigration and refugee policies and the Trump administration’s immigration principles”.
She said no country has done more that the US in providing support for migrant and refugee populations globally, “and our generosity will continue, but our decisions on immigration policies must always be made by Americans and Americans alone,” she said.
“We will decide how best to control our borders and who will be allowed to enter our country.”
The US withdrawal from the initiative was announced on Monday at a three-day global summit in Mexico in support of worldwide migration. The president reportedly decided on Friday that the United States would not attend the conference in Puerto Vallarta, after top national security advisers advised against participation.
World leaders expressed their open disapproval and dismay at the Trump announcement, which is likely to shine more light on global efforts to ignore a growing crisis.
Last April, the president issued an executive order cracking down on H-1B visas, or work permits for immigrants.
Trump has also supported a bill seeking to cut annual immigration numbers in half — bringing numbers down from around a million to 500 000, and in September, the White House announced an end to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program with a six-month delay.
The US president has repeatedly called refugees “terrorists” and has blamed them for incidents of violence domestically and abroad.
The numbers of refugees are rising worldwide, with the global refugee population growing by more than 50 percent since 2013. Wars and conflict across the Middle East, Afghanistan, and parts of Africa and southern Asia have created the highest number of displaced persons since World War II.
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