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Press Release

The Trump Administration proposes a new low number for refugee admissions at 15,000 for fiscal year 2021; refugee admissions on hold until President Trump signs new order; IRC calls for swift action to meet the new refugee target

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) today reacts with deep concern to the Trump administration’s report to Congress recommending a refugee admissions goal of 15,000 for fiscal year 2021, a further reduction from the all-time low of 18,000 set in the previous year, in the face of growing global need.

The report, part of the consultation the Administration is legally bound to share with Congress on determining the annual admissions cap, was submitted just before midnight on the last day of fiscal year 2020 - and means that refugee admissions will be delayed until President Trump signs a new Presidential Determination. A level of 15,000, limited to only certain categories of refugee[1], leaves over 1.4 million of the world’s most vulnerable refugees in need of resettlement. In fiscal year 2020 just ended,  as a result of massive bureaucratic impediments as well as COVID, the Administration admitted just over 11,000 refugees toward its goal of 18,000.

Nazanin Ash, the Vice President of Public Policy at the International Rescue Committee said:

"Unprecedented attacks on the refugee admissions programme have been a feature of this administration since week one. The report reveals an all-time low admission goal of 15,000 refugees, less than half of the 37,000 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approved refugees overseas who are waiting to reunite with their families in the safety of the United States. It also creates highly restrictive categories for which refugees can access the programme--leaving refugees from many of the world’s worst crises, especially those in Africa, locked out.

“The number of refugees worldwide has grown by over 14 million over the last four years, while the Trump Administration has lowered refugee admissions levels by over 80 percent, vastly reduced access to the programme for Muslim and Black refugees, severely reduced the number of persecuted religious allowed into the country, and ignored the world’s largest refugee crises. The Administration has reneged on U.S. humanitarian obligations, trampled on long-held values, undermined U.S. interests and its own stated policy goals--including by failing to provide safety to thousands in need of refuge because of their assistance to U.S. troops or because of religious or political persecution.

“The delay in setting a refugee admissions goal for the new fiscal year leaves tens of thousands of the most vulnerable refugees in danger and in many cases separated from their families. They have followed all the rules and cleared all the security checks--sometimes waiting as long as two years for a lifeline to the U.S. Although the administration has set a lower number, it can still do right by accelerating the pace of arrivals, with the President signing the Presidential Determination as soon as possible, and arrivals resuming imminently with any administrative hurdles removed.”

The US has long set the bar for refugee resettlement, a goal averaged at 95,000 refugees per year across both Republican and Democratic administrations, in line with historic norms, commitments and American ideals. Communities across the US recognise both the importance of welcoming, and the contribution made, by refugees who are granted safe haven here. The IRC urges the Administration to urgently meet this long-standing and essential commitment - and for Congress to hold the Administration accountable for meeting it - lest any more innocent lives are put at risk.


[1] Refugees fleeing religious persecution; Iraqis whose lives are in danger because they supported U.S. missions abroad; refugees from Northern Central America, and refugees meeting various criteria under an umbrella “Other” category.

About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 29 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue-uk.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.