US Refugee Admissions From Around the World: 45.9% Muslims, 43.5% Christians

Patrick Goodenough | August 23, 2016 | 4:08am EDT
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Christians refugees who fled from ISIS jihadists in north-eastern Syria in February 2015. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein, File)

( – As the Obama administration races towards its goal of resettling 10,000 Syrian refugees in the United States this fiscal year, its overall refugee admission program has opened the door to more Muslims than Christians from around the world.

As of Monday, the U.S. had admitted a total of 66,480 refugees from 74 countries since the beginning of FY 2016 last October.  Of those, 30,543 (45.94 percent) are Muslims and 28,973 (43.58 percent) are Christians.

According to the Pew Research Center, this is the first time in a decade that the U.S. has admitted more Muslim refugees than Christians.

The large number of Muslim refugees is attributable to sizeable contingents from Syria (9,322 Muslims out of a total of 9,389 refugees), Somalia (7,524 Muslims of a total of 7,528 refugees), and Iraq (6,276 Muslims of a total of 7,742 refugees.)

Meanwhile, the largest share of Christians among the refugees admitted in FY 2016 include those from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (10,477 Christians of a total of 11,180 refugees), Burma (6,761 Christians of a total of 10,747 refugees), Eritrea (1,400 Christians of a total of 1,686 refugees), and Bhutan (1,100 Christians of a total of 4,954 refugees.)

Apart from Muslims and Christians, larger groups among the remaining FY 2016 refugees include 2,642 Buddhists (the majority from Burma and Bhutan), 1,652 Hindus (most from Bhutan), 458 Baha’i (most from Iran) and 293 Yazidi (from Iraq and Syria).

According to State Department Refugee Processing Center data, the sectarian breakdown of the 30,543 Muslim refugees admitted this fiscal year is:

--14,241 Sunnis, including 9,229 from Syria and 3,590 from Iraq;

--3,904 Shi’a, including 2,472 Iraqis and 1,141 Afghans;

--12,116 refugees self-reported simply as “Moslem,” including 7,090 from Somalia and 2,614 from Burma;

--268 Ahmadi Muslims, all from Pakistan (a country whose constitution does not recognize Ahmadis as Muslims and whose penal code criminalizes Ahmadi worship); and

14 “Moslem Ismaici” from Afghanistan (probably refers to Ismailis, a branch of Shi’a Islam.)

Among Christian refugees, the largest contingents include:

--12,299 described simply as “Christian,” including large groups from Burma, Bhutan and the DRC;

--4,569 Pentecostals, many from the DRC and Ukraine;

--3,360 Catholics, about half of them from the DRC; and

--2,098 Protestants, more than half of them from the DRC.

Data on refugees’ self-reported religious affiliation is only available from FY 2002 onward.

The Pew Research Center says that FY 2016 is the first year since FY 2006 in which the U.S. has admitted more Muslim refugees than it has Christians. (In FY 2006, more than 10,000 Somali Muslim refugees and more than 5,000 Muslim refugees from Russia were resettled in the country.)

Overall, the U.S. has admitted many more Christian than Muslim refugees since FY 2002 – about 46 percent Christian compared to around 32 percent Muslim, according to Pew.

Refugee admissions are distinct from number of immigrants who settle in the U.S. each year – roughly one million a year.

The government does not track religious affiliation of those granted permanent residence, but Pew in 2013 estimated that, as of the previous year, about six in ten new legal immigrants were Christian, while one in ten were Muslim.

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