Monthly Refugee Admissions Lowest in 15 Years; Percentage of Muslims Declining

By Patrick Goodenough | September 6, 2017 | 7:20am EDT
Syrian refugees await registration at a UNHCR compound in Tripoli, Lebanon. (Photo: UNHCR/L. Addario)

( – Nine hundred and thirteen refugees were admitted to the United States during August, the first time the monthly intake has dropped below one thousand in 15 years, and the smallest number of monthly admissions since October 2002.

August’s arrivals followed a pattern evident since the start of the Trump administration – a declining proportion of Muslims in comparison to Christians and adherents of other faiths.

Of the 913 refugees admitted during the month, 551 (60.3 percent) were Christians, with the biggest groups including 185 Pentecostalists from Ukraine and 53 Baptists, also from Ukraine.

A significantly smaller group, 220 (24.1 percent) were Muslims, including 48 Sunnis from Iraq and 47 from Syria.

The remaining 142 (15.5 percent) were unaffiliated or from other religions, and included 43 Buddhists and 36 Hindus, mostly from Bhutan.

In comparison, last January 49 percent of admitted refugees were Muslims and 40 percent were Christians. Over the months since, the proportion of Muslims has generally diminished while the proportion of Christians has grown, according to State Department Refugee Processing Center data.

The refugee admission process can take 18-24 months, so refugees admitted since President Trump took office would almost all have lodged their applications before then.

Even so, the shift in religious affiliation among those admitted since January 21 has been marked, when compared to the same period one year earlier.

Between Trump’s inauguration and the end of August, 21,270 refugees were resettled in the U.S., including 3,531 from the DRC, 2,606 from Burma, 2,162 from Ukraine, 2,147 from Somalia, 2,083 from Iraq and 1,891 from Syria.

Of those 21,270 refugees, 51.6 percent were Christians, and 37.0 percent were Muslims.

During the equivalent period one year earlier (Jan. 21-Aug. 31, 2016), however, 43.9 percent of the 56,135 refugees admitted by the Obama administration were Christians, and 46.6 percent were Muslims.

The countries of origin accounting for the largest groups of refugees arriving in August were Ukraine (302), Bhutan (115), Iraq (101), Iran (68), Somalia (54), Burma (52), Syria (48) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (46).

The 913 newcomers in August brought to 51,392 the total number of refugees resettled in the U.S. since the start of fiscal year 2017.

The largest groups among the 51,392 include those from the DRC (8,952), Iraq (6,740), Syria (6,509), Somalia (5,953) and Burma (4,809).

President Trump’s travel ban executive orders restricted refugee admission numbers to a 50,000 ceiling in FY 2017, but a Supreme Court ruling prohibits the exclusion of an applicant on the basis of that ceiling having been reached, as long as that applicant has a “credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”

The Obama administration admitted 84,994 refugees in FY 2016, 69,933 in FY 2015 and 69,987 in FY 2014.


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