FY 2019 Refugee Admissions Up Year-to-Year; 79.6% Christians

By Patrick Goodenough | June 5, 2019 | 4:43am EDT
A Syrian refugee’s International Committee of the Red Cross travel papers. (Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) – Two-thirds of the way through the fiscal year, the Trump administration is on track to keep refugee admissions for FY 2019 below the record-low ceiling of 30,000 which it set last fall, even as the monthly admission figures slowly pick up.

From October 1 last year until the end of May, a total of 18,051 refugees have been resettled in the United States, and almost eight in ten self-identify as Christians, according to State Department Refugee Processing Center data.

May saw the largest monthly number of arrivals in FY 2019 – 3,242 refugees – with almost half coming from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Previous months’ admission figures ranged from a low of 1,455 in January to a high of 2,776 in March.

The number of refugees admitted since October 1, 18,051, is up almost 26 percent compared with the same eight-month period one year earlier, when 14,331 refugees arrived.

(Table: Refugee Processing Center/CNSNews.com)

Both this year and last year recorded significant drops from the equivalent periods for the three years prior, however: Over the same eight-month period in FY 2017 (Oct. 1, 2016-May 31, 2017) 46,403 refugees were admitted; in FY 2016 (Oct. 1, 2015-May 31, 2016) 41,423 were resettled; and in FY 2015 (Oct. 1, 2014-May 31, 2015), 40,002 were resettled.

The refugee admission ceiling set by the administration for FY 2019 – 30,000 – is the lowest since the U.S. refugee admissions program was established in 1980.

Even so, on present form admissions for FY 2019 are on track to exceed those recorded in FY 2018, when a total of 22,491 arrived, well below the ceiling of 45,000 set for that year.

The religious breakdown of refugees arriving in the U.S. continues to be heavily skewed in favor of Christians, a noticeable trend under the Trump administration.

For the eight-month period ending May 31, Christian account for 79.6 percent (14,378) of the total admissions, with the biggest contingents coming from the DRC and Burma; and Muslims for 16.3 percent (2,941) of the total, with the biggest groups from Burma, the DRC, Syria and Afghanistan.

One year earlier, the same eight-month period saw Muslims comprise about the same percentage of the total as this year (16.0 percent), but Christians made up a smaller proportion than this year (66.2 percent).

That’s because other faith groups were better represented last year, with Buddhists, Hindus and Kirat adherents – especially from Bhutan – together totaling 2,008 refugees. This year those three religions together accounted for just 369 arriving refugees. (Kirat is a Himalayan and South Asian religion incorporating nature and ancestor worship.)

The religious breakdown among the accepted refugees has shifted markedly since the Obama administration, when for most years the proportion of Christian refugees resettled was only marginally higher than the number of Muslims.

In FY 2016 the balance shifted slightly in the other direction, with Muslims making up 45.7 percent of the 84,994 refugees resettled in the U.S., and Christians comprising 44.5 percent.

Over the past eight months, the four countries accounting for the biggest number of refugees admitted to the U.S. were unchanged from the same period a year earlier – the DRC (8,402), Burma (3,081), Ukraine (2,085) and Eritrea (1,229).

Refugee arrivals from countries of Islamist “terrorist concern” over the Oct.-May period include: Afghanistan 460, Syria 347, Iraq 282, Sudan 214, Pakistan 199, Iran 109, Somalia 97 and Yemen 1.

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