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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 September 2018

Trump’s refugee cap: Less than 17,500 from Middle East in 2018

In total, 45,000 refugees will be accepted to the United States in 2018 - a dramatic drop from last year's 110,000 cap set by the Obama administration

US President Donald Trump announced his decision on the refugee limit following a consultation with members of Congress on Wednesday (Carolyn Kaster / AP)
US President Donald Trump announced his decision on the refugee limit following a consultation with members of Congress on Wednesday (Carolyn Kaster / AP)

The Trump administration has slashed the number of refugees to be admitted to the United States by more than half from last year, limiting it to 17,500 refugees for the Middle East and South Asia regions.

The administration, four days following its travel ban, has notified Congress that it will accept 45,000 refugees in total in 2018. That is the lowest level reported in 36 years from the US, and a dramatic drop from last year’s 110,000 cap set by the Obama administration.

US senior officials said in a briefing with reporters ahead of the announcement on Wednesday that Congress has been notified by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson of the refugee cap, and expects it to be made official in the next few days.

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Breaking it down by regions, Africa will come first with 19,000 admissions, with the Near East and South Asia region second with 17,500 slots. The rest of the 8,500 admissions will be allocated as follows: East Asia, 5,000; Europe and Central Asia, 2,000; Latin America and the Caribbean, 1,500.

The 17,500 figure for the Near East and South Asia is unprecedentedly low, given the high flow of refugees from Syria, Iraq, Yemen and more recently Myanmar. “The security and safety of the American people is our chief concern,” said one US official.

The administration is also putting in place stronger and more enhanced vetting procedures. “The number we process will depend on our ability to process, new vetting requirements that we’re putting out, [and the] Department of Homeland Security’s interviewing capacity, especially taking into account their need to tackle... domestic asylum,” said a US official.

The cap is expected to be approved on Sunday and to come into effect on October 18, along with the new travel ban.

The decision follows a split within the administration on the cap, with officials from different cabinets recommending a higher admission rate of 55,000 while the White House and immigration hawks such as Stephen Miller insisted on a lower ceiling.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR put the number of refugees this year at an all time high, with 22.5 million worldwide coming mostly from Syria, Afghanistan and South Sudan.

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