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The Number of Refugees Coming Into the US Is at a 6-Year Low

Syrian refugee Asma Khalid, 10, holds her cousin Majd, 1, near her family's tent at an informal tented settlement near the Syrian border on the outskirts of Mafraq, Jordan, Feb. 29, 2016.
Photo by Muhammed Muheisen/AP

All around the world, men, women, and children who have fled violence and persecution are anxiously waiting for their refugee applications to be processed by the US.

But what had always been a long and rigorous waiting list now seems nearly insurmountable, especially for people who are coping with trauma, separated from family members, and living in precarious situations.

If the Trump administration’s travel ban went through, then refugees wouldn’t be allowed to enter the US for several months. But the mere drafting and signing of the order has thrown the country’s refugee system into disarray.

Now far fewer refugees are being let into the country than would have if the order never occurred.

Read More: Heartbreaking: 1 Million Refugees from South Sudan Are Children

In March, the number of refugee admissions dropped to a six-year low to 2,070, according to public data released by the State Department. When the fiscal year began in October, 9,945 refugees were let into the country, an amount consistent with the target set by the Obama administration of 111,000 for 2017, and nearly five times more than March.  

The number of refugees allowed into the US increased to 3,316 in April, but that’s still a five-year low besides the previous month.

There are a few reasons for the plunge.

The two iterations of the travel ban temporarily froze refugee processing. People who were close to being let in were suddenly denied entry and sometimes forced to start the process all over again after their papers expired.

The uncertainty of the executive orders then caused refugee resettlement organizations to cut staff and pause their operations. For instance, Church World Service cut more than 90% of its employees in Africa during the mayhem, according to AP.

Even though it was ultimately blocked, the Trump administration’s attempt to more than halve the refugee target for 2017 to 50,000 caused organizations to rapidly reconfigure their plans for the year.

Read More: US to Spend $990M to Save Millions of People 'Months From Starvation'

Finally, the remaining budget for the year only allots money for 75,000 refugees, a sharp drop from 110,000.

To give some context, the US has accepted more than 75,000 refugees in 16 of the last 42 fiscal years, and averages 80,474 refugees per year. That’s through the terms of both Republican and Democratic presidents and, in fact, the largest admission years happened under Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

So far, 42,414 refugees have been let into the US with five months remaining in fiscal year 2017. The top four refugee countries, accounting for more than half the flow, are the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Syria, and Somalia.

Read More: The UK Has ‘Quietly’ Made a Major Change to Its Refugee Policy

The overall situation has begun to stabilize, but it’s unlikely that organizations will resume their full operations because the Trump administration can set a target for fiscal year 2018 that is substantially lower.  

"This is one of the most challenging times that we've seen in refugee service," Aaron Rippenkroeger, president of Refugee Services Texas, told AP. "Were operating in a dramatically unstable management environment."

Meanwhile, the largest refugee crisis since World War II continues to roil the world.