Administration re-starts refugee program for 11 high-risk countries

Administration re-starts refugee program for 11 high-risk countries

29/01/18 - 17:37 - The Trump administration has lifted its effective pause on refugees from 11 “high-risk” countries but is imposing stricter vetting, including in-depth interviews, for applicants from those nations, Homeland Security announced Monday.

Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen also said it’s time to update the list of high-risk countries, which hasn’t been revised since 2015, in order to keep track of the expanding threats. That review will happen over the next six months, and will be updated every six months following.

And Ms. Nielsen said the overall refugee program doesn’t do enough to focus on risks in the refugee program, and she’s proposing an update, working with the State Department and Congress, to try to focus on qualified refugees.

“These changes will not only improve security but importantly they will help us better assist refugees fleeing persecution,” the secretary said.

Admissions from the 11 countries have been essentially on pause since Mr. Trump’s October updates to his refugee policy.

That’s changing now.

“We’ll be resuming admissions with the new security measures in place,” a senior official said.

The government has declined to publicly identify the 11 countries currently targeted, but they are reportedly Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, North Korea, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

President Trump had called for stiffer refugee screening as part of his January 2017 travel ban executive order, and has updated that policy in the ensuing year in response both to court orders and to reviews of U.S. policy that he directed.

A federal court in Washington has stepped in to rule some of the old policy likely illegal and issue an injunction. Homeland Security said the new changes will be carried out in compliance with that injunction.

Refugee admissions have been down dramatically under Mr. Trump as his “extreme vetting” policies have taken hold. It’s not clear what the new announcements will mean for those numbers.

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