US closing the door on Syrian refugees
The United States has accepted just 11 Syrian refugees so far this year and just 44 since October 1, according to new statistics released by the US State Department.
The figures were released just hours after President Donald Trump ordered air strikes on Syria prompting accusations of hypocrisy by the Trump administration.
In 2015, under President Obama’s administration, the US admitted 2,192 Syrian refugees, State Department figures show.
This rose dramatically the following year, when 15,479 were allowed into the US. Last year, the country accepted 3,024 Syrians.
President Trump has repeatedly called for stricter controls on immigration to the US and in September, he proposed a strict cap of 45,000 refugees from all nations.
But he has expressed sympathy for victims of the suspected chemical attack earlier this month on the town of Douma in Syria, condemning the “mindless” act.
He tweeted: “Another humanitarian disaster for no reason whatsoever. SICK!”
In later tweet, he added: “Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of god should ever suffer such horror.”
Trump administration officials have said that tougher vetting of visitors and refugees was needed because of national security concerns.
But US federal courts have blocked parts of the bans.
But activists say a “back door ban” exists because the State Department has stopped processing claims for refugee status.
The large decline in the US’ refugee intake coincides with President Trump’s stricter security protocols for refugees from Syria, which are making it more difficult for Syrians to get approved to come to the US.
An executive order from last October imposed restrictions on refugees whom the administration decided warranted extra screening.
It’s believed the new procedures affect people who are citizens of or have lived in 11 countries, including Syria.
Throughout the civil war, more child refugees have been allowed into the US than any other age group.
Out of the Syrians who have resettled since 2011, almost half have been children younger than 14.
But since October, only 10 of the new arrivals have been children under 14.
That is in comparison to almost 2,700 Syrian children 13 or younger who resettled in the US during the same period last year.
The State Department says new vetting protocols are “enabling departments and agencies to more thoroughly review applicants to identify threats to public safety and national security.”
But it admits that the new procedures may make processing slower.
The UN Refugee Agency estimates that more than 5.4 million people have fled Syria since the war broke out over seven years ago.
The Trump administration set a cap of 45,000 refugees for the fiscal year, but advocates are estimating that actual numbers will not reach anywhere near that high.
The State Department said that 45,000 is “not a quota but represents an upper limit of refugee admissions for this fiscal year”.
AMES Australia Senior Journalist