U.S. to Resume Accepting Refugees from 11 ‘High-Risk’ Countries, Pledges Tougher Scrutiny

The United States announced that it will resume admissions for refugees from 11 countries identified as presenting a high-security risk, but with extra vetting for these mostly Middle Eastern and African nations. From now on, would-be refugees fleeing some of the world’s most searing conflicts will face more extensive background checks and the government will move to implement what it said was a more rigorous model for identifying possible threats, The Washington Post reports.

“These additional security measures will make it harder for bad actors to exploit our refugee program, and they will ensure we take a more risk-based approach to protecting the homeland. The United States must continue to fulfill its obligation to the global community to assist those facing persecution and do so in a manner that addresses the security of the American people,” Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said.

Additional interviews of applicants’ family members and close scrutiny of potential ties to organized crime are some of the new measures. Critics say that the measures are part of President Donald Trump’s broader goal of limiting all forms of immigration to the United States, especially from majority-Muslim countries.

Even though the administration did not identify the 11 nations it considers high-risk, officials familiar with the list say that it includes Egypt, Iran, Lybia, South Sudan, Yemen, Sudan, Mali, Iraq, North Korea, Syria and Somalia. According to an unnamed U.S. official, the high-risk determination for the 11 nations is not related to religion.

While running for president, Trump said that he would ban Muslims from entering the United States. At the time, he used to say that extremist could be entering the country with a massive inflow of refugees. When he became president, Trump froze refugee admissions and capped the number the U.S. would accept at 45,000 per year. The country resumed admitting refugees in October. Yet, the White House ordered the DHS to continue tightly restricting applicants from 11 countries deemed as most risky.

Administration officials said that the enhanced security measures will increase information sharing among the U.S. agencies tasked with vetting refugee applicants. The refugee screening measures are separate from Trump administration’s attempt to ban travelers from Muslim-majority nations.

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