59% Drop in Refugee Admissions Through April

By Patrick Goodenough | May 4, 2018 | 4:20 AM EDT

Refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) at Gihinga camp in Burundi. In recent years the DRC has accounted for the largest number of refugees admitted to the United States. (Photo: UNHCR / A. Kirchhof)

(CNSNews.com) – A total of 6,865 refugees were admitted to the United States during the first four months of 2018, down from 16,743 for the same period last year and 21,121 for the same period in 2016.

The admissions account for a 59 percent fall from the same period last year, and a 67.5 percent drop from the first four months of 2016.

Along with the overall reduction in the number of refugees resettled in the U.S., the proportion of Christians to Muslims among the new arrivals has changed significantly too, according to figures from the State Department Refugee Processing Center database.

(Data: State Department RPC/Graph: CNSNews.com)

From January to April this year, 67.3 percent of the refugees were Christians and 19 percent were Muslims.

By comparison, during the January to April period in 2016 – when President Obama was in office – Christians still held a majority, but a much smaller one: Christians accounted for 47.2 percent (9,968) of the total refugee admission numbers, and Muslims for 44.4 percent (9,387) of the total.

During the same period last year, the proportions were roughly reversed, with Christians comprising 43.8 percent (7,332) of the total number of refugees admitted and Muslims 46 percent (7,717) of the total.

The four-month period in 2017 includes the final weeks of the Obama administration, which ended on January 20.

Of the total 16,743 refugees admitted during that Jan.-Apr. period, 4,451 (26.5 percent) were admitted in January, before Trump’s inauguration. Of the 4,451, 1,598 (35.9 percent) were Christians and 2,494 (56 percent) were Muslims.

(Data: State Department RPC/Graph: CNSNews.com)

In Jan.-Apr. this year, the countries of origin of the biggest groups of resettled refugees were the Democratic Republic of Congo (2,111), Burma (1,465), Ukraine (772), Eritrea (454), Bhutan (431) and Afghanistan (365).

The biggest contingents of refugee arrivals during the period, by Christian denomination, were 1,150 Pentecostalists (mostly from the DRC), 597 Catholics (with DRC again comprising the biggest group), and 1,355 refugees self-identifying simply as “Christian” (with the largest groups coming from Burma and DRC.)

Muslim arrivals comprised 293 Shi’ites (most from Afghanistan), 189 Sunnis (also mostly Afghans), 76 Ahmadiyya (all from Pakistan), and 750 refugees described simply as Muslim (with the largest groups coming from Burma, DRC and Eritrea.)

Eleven Syrian refugees – six Christians and five Sunni Muslims – were resettled in the four-month period.

That compares to 2,499 Syrian refugees (98 percent Muslim, 1.4 percent Christian) admitted during the same period last year – of which 1,052 (97.6 percent Muslim, 2.1 percent Christian) were admitted before Trump’s inauguration.

During the same period in 2016, 1,062 Syrian refugees were admitted, of whom 98.6 percent were Muslim and 0.4 percent were Christian.

The admission of Syrian refugees was dogged by controversy during the Obama administration, in part because the proportion of Sunni Muslims to Christians among those given refuge in the U.S. did not reflect the population makeup of the country.

When the Syrian civil war began in 2011, Sunnis comprised around 74 percent of the population and Christians some 10 percent.

But among Syrians given refugee status in the U.S. between March 2011 and the end of the Obama administration, 97.1 percent were Sunnis.

Pointing to the skewed proportion of Muslim to Christian refugees, some Republican lawmakers called for non-Muslim minorities to be given greater priority, but Obama rejected what he said would amount to a “religious test” in the refugee admission process.


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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow