US President Donald Trump signed a new executive order on Tuesday that directs government agencies to resume the US refugee programme, but according to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), a 90-day review period for those arriving from “11 countries previously identified as posing a higher risk to the United States” will be put in place.
The order also said that new “enhanced vetting” procedures will be implemented for all refugees.
DHS officials declined to reveal the countries that are considered “high risk”, but said in a statement that “admissions for applicants from those 11 high-risk countries will move forward on a case-by-case basis” during the review period.
The resumption of the refugee programme came as the 120-day ban on refugees ended on Tuesday.
‘Enhanced vetting’ procedures
In the latest executive order, Trump announced new “enhanced vetting” procedures for refugees entering the US.
Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke said in a statement that “these new, standardised screening measures provide an opportunity for the United States to welcome those in need into our country, while ensuring a safer, more secure homeland.”
The new vetting procedures include increased data collection, better information sharing between US agencies and new training protocols for screening, DHS said, adding that “following the implementation of these improved measures, the administration will recommence refugee resettlement processing.”
According to US media, officials will also take a closer look at social media accounts and collect more biographical data from applicants.
Al Jazeera’s Gabriel Elizondo, reporting from New York, said some refugee rights organisations are “already saying that this order does not do a lot to help refugees, particularly adult males who already go through a secondary screen process that is much more rigorous than the process for children or women”.
Amnesty International said in a statement prior to Tuesday’s announcement that “ripping families apart and subjecting refugees to yet more scrutiny does not keep anyone safer, and in fact exposes more people to danger”.
Trump initially signed an executive order in January that temporarily banned Syrian refugees, but that move was challenged in the courts.
A revised order was later issued that implemented a ban on all refugees, with some exceptions.
The Trump administration announced last month that it wants to reduce the number of refugees entering the country in 2018 to 45,000 – the lowest number in decades.
In 2016, the US admitted more than 84,000 refugees.