As the third version of US President Donald Trump’s travel ban on refugees comes to an end on Tuesday, new, harsher policies are being implemented, following a review by the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security, according to the administration.

No longer will refugees be banned from coming to the US based on their country of origin, as was the case with the original travel ban that excluded Syrian refugees.

The wholesale ban on refugees will also not be renewed, according to the memo from the State Department.

That means that refugees will once again be admitted to the US — but they'll be vetted more intensely.

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However, refugees from 11 countries in particular — which the administration has not identified for security reasons — will face steep obstacles over the next three months. In the past, these refugees had to receive a Security Advisory Opinion, which the Trump administration will not be issuing until new guidelines are established, which will take 90 days.

Further, refugees who had already been screened and approved will have to go through additional interviews to meet the new standards.

The changes that the Trump administration is making to refugee policy are twofold.

First, the administration is drastically cutting the amount of refugees that will be allowed to enter the US in fiscal year 2018, which began Oct. 1.

The new quota is 45,000, less than half the level that the Obama administration had set for FY 2017, and the lowest level that the US has ever set since the refugee resettlement program was enacted in 1975.

The administration has said that it is lowering the quota to deal with the current backlog of asylum applicants, a category separate from refugees that currently exceeds 300,000. Many refugee vetting personnel had been reassigned to asylum application review during the 120-day ban on refugees, according to ABC News.

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Asylum seekers differ from refugees in that they arrive in the US and then make their plea for residency because of persecution back home, whereas refugees remain outside the US, often in challenging circumstances, as they wait for processing.  

Refugees will also now be subjected to stricter vetting standards, including social media scans and the collection of more biographical data such as previous places of employment, according to the DHS memo.

They will also be required to submit “phone, email, and address information going back ten years instead of five,” for all residencies in which they stayed for more than 30 days.

And they will have to supply phone and email addresses for all their family members. In the past, this information was only needed for family members with connections to the US.

For people whose lives have been upended, who may have fled their homes and have had their possessions destroyed, these requests will be difficult to fulfill, according to refugee advocates.

Syrian refugee familyOum Ali, her husband and five of her 10 children.
Image: Mohamed Azakir / World Bank

“The IRC is an organization that supports thorough and common-sense vetting of refugees, but the backdrop with which these vetting measures are being announced – the end of a misguided Travel Ban, a low Presidential Determination, and dismantling of DACA and CAM AOR – keeps us extremely alert to arbitrary obstacles placed in front of the most vulnerable populations on the planet,” Jennifer Sime, senior vice president of US programs at the International Refugee Committee said in a statement.

The new standards will be applied to all applicants, including women and children who were exempted from some of the standards in the past, because of lower perceived risk and higher perceived vulnerability.

In the past, women and children had been prioritized. Now, no priorities of this kind will be made, according to the DHS memo.

Further, family members of refugees who have been admitted to the US will also have to undergo heightened scrutiny. In the past, the goal of family reunification allowed for expedited screening.

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The elevated standards are being added to what is already one of the most stringent refugee vetting processes in the world. Historically, refugees have had their histories and connections scoured and screened by intelligence agencies, gone through numerous interviews and acculturation classes, and that’s after being prioritized by the United Nation’s own refugee vetting process.

The resumption of the resettlement process, however, means that refugees once more have hope of finding reprieve in the US.

For the 65.6 million displaced peoples now living in the world — that’s a good thing.

Global Citizen campaigns on the resettlement of refugees. You can take action on this issue here.


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