The Trump administration has proposed further reducing the number of refugees admitted to the US in the coming fiscal year to a record low.
The government intends to take in up to 15,000 refugees in fiscal year 2021, the State Department said in a statement late Wednesday.
That’s 3,000 less than the U.S. cap of 18,000 set for fiscal 2020, the lowest number since the U.S. refugee admission program began.
The president’s proposal “reflects the government’s continued commitment to prioritize the safety and wellbeing of Americans, particularly in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic,” the State Department said in the statement.
The refugee resettlement program proposed this year includes specific allocations for people who have suffered or fear persecution because of their religion. for Iraqis; for refugees from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras; and for refugees from Hong Kong, Cuba and Venezuela according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The proposal is now under scrutiny by Congress, where there are strong objections to the cuts but lawmakers will be largely powerless to force changes.
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President Donald Trump suspended admitting new refugees in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, but some of those who were already in the middle of the process were able to continue their requests.
Fiscal 2020 data shows that the U.S. has relocated around 11,800 refugees from the 18,000 border. It remains unclear whether this will be the final total for the fiscal year.
By comparison, almost 85,000 refugees were relocated to the United States in the last year of the Obama administration.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday insisted that the US remain the most generous nation in the world when it comes to alleviating the refugee crisis.
“We continue to make the greatest contribution to alleviating the humanitarian crisis around the world and will continue to do so,” said Pompeo during a visit to Rome, responding to a press question addressed to Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio . “As long as President Trump is in office, I can promise you that this administration is deeply committed to it.”
Worldwide, at least 79.5 million people had to flee their homes at the end of 2019, including 26 million refugees, 45.7 million internally displaced persons and 4.2 million asylum seekers United Nations Refugee Agency.
That’s more than one percent of the world’s population, according to the United States.
In June, the United States High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, said The coronavirus crisis had further exposed the vulnerability of the refugees and dashed their hopes for a better future.
According to the State Department, the Trump administration expects more than 300,000 new refugees and asylum applications in fiscal year 2021.
The president’s proposal addresses the backlog in asylum cases by giving priority to those already in the country seeking humanitarian protection and refugees whose resettlement has been delayed due to the coronavirus crisis, according to the State Department
The State Department said the US was focused on ending conflicts that primarily fuel displacement and providing humanitarian assistance to protect and assist displaced persons.
“In line with the US National Security Strategy, we are working to help refugees and other displaced people as close as possible to their homes,” the statement said.
Abigail Williams reported from Washington D.C., Saphora Smith from London.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.