Administration Falling Behind Historically-Low Refugee Resettlement Goals

New York City—As the United States approaches the end of the first half of its 2018 fiscal year, Human Rights First said that the Trump Administration’s resettlement of an abysmally low number of refugees is an abject failure of moral and strategic leadership as the world faces the greatest refugee crisis in recorded history. The administration has only resettled 10,548 refugees so far, falling short on progress towards meeting the administration’s historically-low goal of resettling 45,000 refugees this year.

“The Trump Administration’s feeble progress towards meeting its low resettlement goal is yet another reflection of the administration’s effort to block refugees from this country. The sharp decline in resettlement leaves U.S. allies in the lurch, threatens the stability of front-line refugee hosting states, and signals to U.S. friends and foes that the United States has retreated from efforts to address the world’s greatest challenges,” said Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer. “It also undermines the ability of the United States to encourage other countries to resettle more refugees. The U.S. abdication of leadership on resettlement doesn’t put America first, it actually sabotages America’s interests globally.”

Human Rights First notes that the resettlement of only 10,548 in the first six-months of fiscal year 2018 constitutes a sharp decline from resettlement levels in prior years. The United States resettled 38,789 refugees in the first six months of fiscal year 2017. In fiscal year 2016, the United States brought 84,994 refugees to safety through resettlement.

Human Rights First’s analysis of resettlement statistics reveals that in the first six months of fiscal year 2018 that the United States has resettled only:

  • 44 Syrian refugees—a nearly 97 percent percent drop in Syrian resettlement compared to fiscal year 2016, and a 99 percent drop as compared to fiscal year 2017.
  • 106 Iraqis, even though nearly 60,000 Iraqis are stuck in the resettlement backlog, including many who are at risk due to their work for the U.S. military or other U.S. entities and who were provided direct access to the resettlement application assessment process by Congress through the Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act.
  • 1,725 Muslim refugees—a 90 percent drop in the resettlement of Muslim refugees, since the same period last fiscal year, at a time when the majority of the world’s refugees have fled Muslim-majority countries. The resettlement of Christian and Yazidi refugees has plummeted as well with the steep decline in resettlement numbers.

While the United States resettled 10,725 refugees from Jordan in calendar year 2016, that number has fallen sharply since January 2017. During all of calendar year 2017, the United States resettled only 1225 Syrian refugees from Jordan according to UNHCR data, even though 72,000 refugees from Jordan have been determined to be in need of resettlement by the United Nations Refugee Agency. With only 44 Syrian refugees resettled during the first six months of fiscal year 2018, the United States is on track to resettle only about 90 Syrian refugees from all countries this year.

The overwhelming majority of the world’s refugees are hosted by a small number of nations, including Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda. Countries that host large numbers of refugees face serious strains to their medical, housing, water, waste, labor, and other infrastructures.

The United States’ refugee vetting procedures—which include extensive and comprehensive interviews as well as multiple rounds of security vetting with a wide array of U.S. and international intelligence and law enforcement agencies—are widely recognized as the most stringent in the world by former U.S. military leaders and former U.S. national security officials, who have served both Democratic and Republican administrations. Former CIA directors, national security advisors, and secretaries of defense, state, and homeland security have explained that resettling refugees advances U.S. national security interests, and that halting refugee resettlement harms U.S. national security.

Resettlement is an important path to protection for a small portion of the world’s most at-risk refugees. It is also a critical tool for advancing U.S. foreign policy and national security interests, supporting front-line states and allies who are hosting the overwhelming majority of the world’s refugees.


Published on March 30, 2018


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