U.S. Cuts Number of Refugees to 30,000 in FY2019
The US Refugee Admissions Program (hereinafter “USRAP”) was set up in 1980, when Congress passed the Refugee Act. U.S. and international law currently say that people can seek asylum if they fear persecution at home on the basis of their race, political opinion, nationality, religion or because they belong to a particular social group.
The U.S. says it will cap the number of refugees allowed into the country next year at a near record low of 30,000. According to the Pew Research Center, the US had previously led the world in accepting refugees with more than 3 million people resettled since 1980. The FY2019 numbers compare with a 45,000-refugee limit set by President Trump for FY2018 and 50,000 for FY2017. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced “the new refugee ceiling”, adding the US would also process more than 280,000 asylum seekers in FY2019. The lowest such admissions figure was in FY2002, after 9/11, when some 27,000 refugees were allowed into the US. Over the past decade, the number of refugees admitted to the U.S. has fluctuated from a low of 48,282 in FY2007 to a high of 84,995 in FY2016.
Secretary Pompeo said it would be “wrong” to view the refugee ceiling as “the sole barometer of America’s commitment to vulnerable people around the world”. The limit had to be viewed “in the context of the many other forms of protection and assistance offered by the United States”, he said. During a brief press conference, in which he did not take any questions from reporters, Secretary Pompeo said that the cut was needed because of a backlog of 800,000 pending asylum cases. He added that the new policy “serves the national security interests” of the U.S.
With respect to FY2018, the U.S. is currently on track to admit only about half the maximum number of refugees allowed. By the end of August 2018, fewer than 20,000 refugees had been admitted, which means it is unlikely that the U.S. will hit its current cap.