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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 22 April 2018

Top US diplomat for refugees to quit post

Mr Henshaw is the latest senior US official working on refugee issues to leave their job or be sidelined as the Trump administration reshapes US refugee admissions

The US diplomat in charge of refugee issues plans to quit his post within days, according to an email seen by Reuters, becoming the third senior US official to leave or be re-assigned from refugee work in recent weeks.

Simon Henshaw, the acting assistant secretary of the bureau of population, refugees and migration at the State Department, wrote in an email to colleagues in the refugee sector on Saturday that he will be leaving the job at end of next week.

His email said he would remain at the State Department in a different capacity.

Mr Henshaw, a foreign service officer with three decades of experience, did not give details of why he was leaving, except to say that the move came at his request. Mr Henshaw and the State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“After 4-and-half years in the job and a year into the new administration, I thought it time for me to move on,” Mr Henshaw said in the email, which was seen by Reuters.

Mr Henshaw said the bureau will be run from January 22 onward by Carol O‘Connell, who is the deputy assistant secretary of state for African affairs, according to her State Department biography.

“In a world where the number of refugees and displaced persons continues to rise, I think we should all be proud [of] the good that we have done and the help that we have provided to so many,” Mr Henshaw wrote.

Mr Henshaw is the latest senior American official working on refugee issues to leave their job or be sidelined as the administration reshapes refugee admissions in the United States.

Since taking office last year, president Donald Trump has slashed the number of refugees allowed, paused the process entirely for four months, instituted stricter vetting requirements, and quit negotiations on a voluntary pact to deal with global migration.

On Tuesday, Reuters reported that Lawrence Bartlett, previously the head of the refugee admissions office at the State Department, has been given a temporary re-assignment of handling Freedom of Information Act requests.

Earlier this month, Barbara Strack, chief of the refugee affairs division at US Citizenship and Immigration Services under the Department of Homeland Security, said she would retire in January.

Stephen Pomper, US programme director of Crisis Group, called the recent events the "decimation" of the US refugee programme.