Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen says "security upgrades" to the refugee programme would prevent it from “being exploited by terrorists, criminals and fraudsters.”

US Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen testifies to the Senate Judiciary Committee on
US Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen testifies to the Senate Judiciary Committee on "Oversight of the US Department of Homeland Security" on Capitol Hill in Washington, US on January 16, 2018. (Reuters)

The United States announced Monday it was lifting its ban on refugees from 11 "high-risk" countries, but said those seeking to enter the US would come under much tougher scrutiny than in the past.

Applicants from 11 countries, unnamed but understood to include 10 Muslim-majority nations plus North Korea, will face tougher "risk-based" assessments to be accepted.

"It's critically important that we know who is entering the United States," said Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

"These additional security measures will make it harder for bad actors to exploit our refugee program, and they will ensure we take a more risk-based approach to protecting the homeland."

Nielsen, speaking at a public event in Washington, did not give further details and said the upgrades would be announced later on Monday.

The new measures would protect the refugee program from “being exploited by terrorists, criminals and fraudsters,” she said. 

“These changes will not only improve security but importantly they will help us better assess legitimate refugees fleeing persecution.”

Since taking office last year, President Donald Trump has slashed the number of refugees allowed into the country and paused the refugee program for four months. He has also instituted stricter vetting requirements and quit negotiations on a voluntary pact to deal with global migration.

State department data show that the number of people admitted to the US as refugees plummeted under the Trump administration’s new restrictions.

Source: Reuters