(CNSNews.com) – The first month of the new fiscal year saw 1,834 refugees admitted to the United States, more than three-quarters of them Christians, as agencies involved in resettlement began operating under the lowest refugee admission cap set by an administration since the Refugee Act was enacted in 1980.
Despite the 30,000 ceiling set for fiscal year 2019 – down from 45,000 in FY 2018 and 85,000 two years earlier – more refugees were admitted during October than during the same month last year (1,248), although significantly fewer than the numbers admitted in October 2016 (9,945) and October 2015 (5,348).
Of the 1,834 newcomers, 1,425 (77.7 percent) were Christians of various denominations, and 362 (19.7 percent) were Muslims (including Sunnis, Shi’ites and Ahmadis.) Ahmadi beliefs are deemed heretical by many mainstream Muslim clerics and outlawed in the criminal code of Pakistan – the country of origin of the 15 Ahmadi refugees admitted in October.
Rounding out the October refugee admissions were 47 non-Christian and non-Muslim refugees, including 17 Buddhists, five animists, four Hindus, three Jews, and several others who gave their religious affiliation as “other” or “none,” according to State Department Refugee Processing Center data.
The countries accounting for the largest contingents of refugees arriving in October were the Democratic Republic of Congo (612 refugees, all but 33 of them Christians), Eritrea (358 refugees, including 107 Muslims), Ukraine (345 refugees, all Christians bar three Jews) and Burma (304 refugees, mostly Christians but including 131 Muslims, 13 Buddhists, five animists and three Hindus.)
The countries of the Central American “northern triangle” accounted for just 28 refugees – 23 from El Salvador, three from Guatemala and two from Honduras. Twenty-five of the 28 were Christians.
From key Islamic countries, October’s arrivals included 34 refugees from Afghanistan (including one Christian and six refugees with “no religion”), 24 from Pakistan (including the 15 Ahmadis and four Christians), six Iraqis (all Muslims), five from Sudan (all Muslims), three from Somalia (all Muslims), two Syrians (both Muslims) and one refugee from Iran (a Christian).
Early last month President Trump signed an executive order setting the ceiling for refugee admissions in FY 2019 at 30,000.
The regional breakdown for the allocations was: 11,000 from Africa, 9,000 from the Near East/South Asia, 4,000 from East Asia, and 3,000 each from Europe/Central Asia and Latin America/Caribbean.
(The order does authorize unallocated places from any region being used to accommodate refugees from other regions.)
According to a report to Congress on proposed refugee admissions for FY 2019, individuals suffering religious persecution in the ten countries currently designated by the State Department as “countries of particular concern” (CPC) for egregious religious freedom violations may be eligible for “priority one” referral by a U.S. Embassy or the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR..
The ten CPC countries are Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Pakistan, which the Trump administration last year placed on a second-tier watch list that falls short of CPC designation, is added to the ten, the report states.
(“Priority one” does not affect the order in which cases for refugee status are processed. Applications in all three “priority” groups undergo the same processing steps.)
A common theme running through the CPCs (and Pakistan) is persecution of religious minorities at the hand of the state and/or hostile religious majorities. Victims include Christians of various denominations, Muslims (including Rohingya, Shi’ites and Ahmadis), and in China, Tibetan Buddhists and Falun Gong adherents.
The last fiscal year saw the U.S. admit a total of 22,491 refugees, well below the 45,000 ceiling and the smallest number in the history of the modern refugee resettlement program established in 1980.
By contrast, the Obama administration resettled numbers ranging from a low of 56,424 refugees in FY 2011 to a high of 84,994 refugees in FY 2016.
Even under the Trump administration, the U.S. admitted more refugees – 33,368 – in calendar year 2017 than any other country. The next biggest intakes of refugees that year were in Canada (26,600), Australia (15,100), Britain (6,200) and Sweden (3,400).