FY 2019 Refugee Admissions: Below-Average 9,305 in Total; 82.5% Christians, 14% Muslims

By Patrick Goodenough | March 4, 2019 | 4:29 AM EST

Refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo are transported to a settlement in northern Angola in this UNHCR file photo. The war-ravaged DRC has accounted for the largest contingent of refugees admitted into the U.S. in recent years. (Photo: UNHCR/Rui Padilha)

(CNSNews.com) – Five months into the fiscal year, the Trump administration has admitted a total of 9,305 refugees into the United States, an admission rate well below the average needed to meet the 30,000 ceiling for FY 2019 which it set last fall.

According to State Department Refugee Processing Center data, monthly admissions since the start of the current fiscal year were 1,834 in October, 2,150 in November, 1,722 in December, 1,455 in January and 2,144 in February – in each case below the 2,500 monthly average that would add up to the 30,000 ceiling.

The 30,000 ceiling is the lowest since the U.S. refugee admissions program was established in 1980. The FY 2018 ceiling was 45,000, although the actual resettlements that year totaled just 22,491 – the lowest number since 1980.

If the current rate of admissions (a monthly average of 1,861) holds, the FY 2019 total could be even lower – around 22,332.The 9,305 refugees admitted between Oct. 1, 2018 and Feb. 28, 2019 is a slightly larger number than those admitted over the same period one year earlier (8,635). But both years marked significant drops from the equivalent periods for the two years prior: In the same five-month period in FY 2017 (Oct. 1, 2016-Feb. 28, 2017) 37,028 refugees were admitted, and in FY 2016 (Oct. 1, 2015-Feb. 29, 2016) 22,826 arrived.

The other clearly evident difference between the Obama and Trump administration is the increasingly skewed ratio under the current administration of Christians to Muslims among the refugees resettled in the U.S.

Of the 9,305 refugees resettled in the first five months of FY 2019, 7,684 (82.5 percent) self-identified as Christians, and 1,306 (14 percent) as Muslims. One year earlier, 62.9 percent of the new arrivals over that five-month period were Christians, and 15.7 percent were Muslims.

By contrast, during the equivalent periods in FY 2016 and FY 2017, the proportions were more balanced: Muslims comprised 42.9 and 47.3 percent respectively, and Christians comprised 46.3 and 43.4 percent respectively.

Countries of origin

The countries accounting for the largest numbers of refugees admitted to the U.S. since last October are the Democratic Republic of Congo (4,487), Burma (1,436), Ukraine (1,266) and Eritrea (679), with Christians comprising a majority of those coming from all four countries.

The numbers of refugees who have arrived over the past five months from countries where Western security agencies view Islamist terrorism as a serious concern include: Afghanistan 172, Sudan 97, Iraq 95, Pakistan 89, Syria 46, Iran 41, Somalia 23, and Yemen 1.

Over the same five-month period in FY 2018, the biggest refugee contingents came from DRC (1,968), Bhutan (1,884), Burma (1,240), Ukraine (1,021). The same period saw 238 refugee arrivals from Afghanistan, 177 from Somalia, 137 from Pakistan, 96 from Iraq, 51 from Sudan, 38 from Syria and 31 from Iran.

In FY 2017, the five-month period saw large contingents of refugees from DRC (6,514), Burma (2,992), Ukraine (2,433), Bhutan (1,074) and Eritrea (849). With them were refugees from: Iraq 5,484, Syria 5,557, Somalia 4,582, Iran 1,868, Afghanistan 988, Sudan 565, Pakistan 188 and Yemen 6.

And in FY 2016, the five-month period saw big groups of refugees from Burma (4,774), DRC (3,196), Bhutan (1,616), Ukraine (866), and Eritrea (841). Refugees also arrived during that period from: Iraq 3,476, Somalia 3,026, Iran 1,159, Syria 955, Afghanistan 751, Sudan 406, Pakistan 99 and Yemen 3.

Syrian arrivals

Towards the end of the Obama administration, the admission of refugees from Syria became a particularly controversial issue, in large part because the proportion of Muslims among Syrian refugee arrivals was considerably greater than the proportion of Muslims in the general Syrian population.

That occurred despite the fact that Christians, Yazidis, and other non-Muslims were deliberately targeted by ISIS jihadists in what the Obama administration determined in 2016 amounted to a policy of genocide.

When the civil war began, 74 percent of the Syrian population was Sunni Muslim and 10 percent Christian.

In FY 2016, 99.2 percent of the 12,587 Syrian refugees admitted into the United States were Muslims, and 0.5 percent were Christians.

In FY 2017, 97.8 percent of the 6,549 Syrian refugees admitted were Muslims, and 1.7 percent were Christians.

One reason put forward for the disproportionately low number of Christians among Syrian refugees admitted by the Obama administration was that many Christians avoided U.N. refugee camps for fear of their safety there, and so tended instead to shelter with relatives or other co-religionists in surrounding countries.

As a result, the argument went, they were less likely to be considered for refugee status by Western governments, which largely rely on the U.N. refugee agency for initial applicant referrals.

In FY 2018, however, while the overall number of Syrian refugees admitted to the U.S. dropped dramatically, to just 60, one-third of those were Christians.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow

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