The US Accepted the Lowest Number of Refugees in 2017 Since 9/11
In 2017, the US resettled about one-third the number of refugees it resettled in 2016.
The world’s refugee population is on the rise, yet global resettlement numbers are on the decline, according to data from the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). And while several countries have reduced the numbers of refugees they have taken in over the past year, none has reduced its numbers as abruptly as the US.
In 2017, the US resettled just 33,000 refugees, the fewest its admitted since the Sept. 11 terrorists attacks in 2001 and approximately one-third of the total number of refugees it resettled in 2016, according to the Pew Research Center.
Canada and Australia saw less dramatic drops in the numbers of refugees resettled to their shores, but relative to their population sizes still admitted a higher proportion of refugees than the US. While the US still resettled the most refugees of any nation, it took in just 102 refugees per 1 million residents — by comparison, Canada resettled 725 refugees per 1 million residents, the Pew Research Center reported.
The drop in refugee resettlement to the US has affected Muslim refugees more than any other population. Despite rising numbers of Muslim refugees, largely displaced by violent conflict, just 17% of the 12,188 refugees the US admitted between October 2017 and April 2018 were Muslim, according to data from the US State Department. In previous years, the US had admitted Muslim and Christian refugees in approximately equal shares.
Resettlement to the US from countries like Syria, Somalia, and Yemen — the site of a worsening humanitarian crisis — has grown more complicated due to the Trump administration's “travel ban.”
Refugees make up about 30% of the 68.5 million people around the world who have been forced to flee their homes because of violence, persecution, or other rights violations. This includes those who are internally displaced in their home countries.
Unlike the immigrants and asylum seekers approaching the US-Mexico border, resettled refugees can only set foot in their new home country with legal authorization. The process to get that authorization and be officially resettled can take years, during which time many refugees remain in camps.
Since last October — the start of the 2018 fiscal year — the US has resettled more than 16,000 refugees, but with just three months in the fiscal year left, it’s on track to reach a historic low.