The US president came to power on a platform of drastically reducing immigration - A policy that has drawn criticism from rights groups.
The United States will take in the lowest number of refugees in modern history for 2020 after President Donald Trump decided to limit refugee acceptance to 18,000.
Trump made public on November 1 his decision to allow in 18,000 refugees in his Presidential Determination (PD) on Refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year 2020 – which begins on November 14 – the decision by which US refugee admittance numbers are set.
“This news is devastating for refugees who have been waiting for so many years to find safety for themselves and their families”, Betsy Reed, Director of Strategy for the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), said in a statement delivered to TRT World.
IRAP has long worked to ensure refugees and people who qualified for the Special Immigrant Visa programme, which allows Afghans, Iraqis and others who helped the US in its wartime operations, placing them and their families in danger of reprisal, to be resettled in the US.
IRAP works with other rights groups to pressure the US government to live up to its refugee commitments, including taking lawsuits that have been decided upon by the US Supreme Court.
“Let’s not forget that resettlement is the only option for displaced people who are out of options: not only for trusted US allies who are being hunted by militia,” Reed stressed.
Zero Refugees in October
While advocates are pressing for refugee resettlement, the Trump administration appears content with settling zero refugees, as was the case in October.
According to World Relief, a faith-based relief and development organisation that has tracked refugee acceptance and resettlement for 30 years, the US accepted no refugees in October.
“It’s a shame that at a time when we’re facing the world’s worst refugee crisis since World War II, and we’re seeing the ongoing new displacement of Syrians, Rohingya and others, that the US accepted zero refugees this month, for the first time in our records,” Jenny Yang, vice president of advocacy and policy at World Relief, said in a statement.
The US’ record low acceptance comes as the Syrian refugee crisis, which has ebbed and flowed since the country’s civil war began in 2011, has seen an increase due to fighting between Turkish-backed forces and the YPG terror organisation in northern Syria.
According to the UNHCR, the United Nations’ refugee agency, more than 12,000 refugees have sought shelter in Iraq over the last two weeks.
“We should be doing more, not less, and keeping the door open to protect the persecuted who have no safe place to go”, Yang said.
CNN reported that travel for refugees who have been informed they would come to the US has been postponed at least three times in October, the first through the 21, then through the 28 and the most recent delayed set to expire on November 5.
The State Department, which oversees these flights, did not respond to TRT World’s request for comment.
A State Department spokesperson told CNN that it "will work with our implementing partners to plan for a resumption of refugee arrivals, including rescheduling travel for those affected by the extension".
The steady decrease in refugee acceptance adheres to campaign promises Trump before the 2016 election.
Trump promised increased “vetting” of refugees, many of which he alleged had ties to extremist forces in Iraq and Syria.
Shortly after being elected, Trump signed an order popularly called the “Muslim ban”, pausing entry for people from seven predominately Muslim nations.
This rhetoric led to allegations of “Islamophobia” against the Trump administration, which has denied the accusations, citing closer relations with predominantly Muslim states like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Previous to the historic lows of zero refugees in October and 18,000 for 2020, the Trump administration had already severely cut down on refugee admittance.
The US allowed in an average of about 67,000 refugees a year between 2008 and 2017, when Trump assumed office.
Since then, the US has allowed in roughly 22,500 refugees during 2017 and 30,000 in 2018, according to a review of US government data by Pew Research.
Reed, the director of strategy for IRAP, said acceptance was a necessary “for families whose traumatic experience in their war-torn homes continue to haunt them and LGBT individuals who continue to be exploited and harassed.”
She concluded: “If we abandon them, we abandon our humanity.”