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Trump aiming to cut refugee arrivals in US to zero next year

Protesters gather in front of the White House to protest against Trump's announcement that it would limit the number of refugees admitted into the US in Washington, US on 18 September 2018 [Yasin Öztürk/Anadolu Agency]
Protesters gather in front of the White House to protest against Trump's announcement that it would limit the number of refugees admitted into the US in Washington, US on 18 September 2018 [Yasin Öztürk/Anadolu Agency]

The Trump administration is considering a practical shutdown of refugee arrivals in the US next year, cutting the numbers to almost zero. The news has been reported by three sources close to the plan.

The proposal was made during a major meeting between security officials last week, in which a representative of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, who is closely aligned with Stephen Miller, the White House advisor on immigration, suggested setting a cap at zero admissions. Other officials from Homeland Security then suggested making it between 3,000 and 10,000 refugees.

The proposal to basically shut down the refugee admissions programme has alarmed many, including officials at the Department of Defence. They are said to be concerned about stopping the admission of Iraqis who assisted America after the invasion of their country in 2003.

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The security meeting is held every year to discuss and implement the annual cap on the number of refugees and immigrants admitted to the US. President Donald Trump and his administration have lowered the cap by a large margin in recent years. This year, for example, the government cut admissions to 30,000, a third of what the previous figure was.

“In the long-term, it would mean that the capacity and the ability of the United States to resettle refugees would be completely decimated,” said Jen Smyers, a director of Church World Service, one of the nine resettlement agencies in the US.

Immigration and the admission of refugees, particularly from parts of the world which officials and US citizens alike believe to present the highest risk of security threats — countries in the Middle East, for example — are already a central feature for the ongoing 2020 election campaign. This issue is also a controversial determinant in US governance at the moment.

In 2017, Trump announced a “Muslim ban” on immigrants and refugees from six Muslim-majority countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – whom he claimed posed risks to national security. The US President’s reasoning was that the conflicts in which they are embroiled make them more likely to be terrorists than those from other countries.

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