The administration of US President Joe Biden is on track to accept the smallest number of refugees of any administration in American history, a new report by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) says.
Despite pledges to raise the cap on the number of refugees allowed to resettle in the United States – and executive orders signed to reverse many of the immigration policies implemented by former US President Donald Trump – Biden has yet to sign a presidential determination.
A presidential determination would activate the steps taken so far by Biden to reintroduce programmes aimed at enhancing resettlement. Without it, Trump’s policies – including a 15,000 cap on refugee admission per year – remain in effect.
“There has now been an unexplained and unjustified eight-week delay in issuing the revised refugee admissions policy,” IRC said.
“As a result, tens of thousands of already-cleared refugees remain barred from resettlement and over 700 resettlement flights have been cancelled, leaving vulnerable refugees in uncertain limbo.”
Because of the delay, the Biden administration has only allowed 2,050 refugees to resettle in the US halfway through the 2021 fiscal year – the lowest in US history.
IRC has urged the Biden administration to raise the cap on refugee admission to 62,500, as stipulated in the administration’s proposal, and to quickly overturn “discriminatory policies” in place.
If the presidential determination remains unsigned, IRC estimates the Biden administration will admit 4,510 refugees in the 2021 fiscal year – less than half the number from the last year of the Trump administration, and fewer than any president in history.
Most affected would be refugees seeking asylum from Syria, Yemen, and Somalia, since the Trump ban on mostly Muslim-majority countries is technically still in effect, according to the report.
Muslim refugees from other countries are also “disproportionately impacted” by Trump-era admissions policies, the report showed.
It also said admission of refugees from countries subject to “extreme vetting” remains at a near halt.
These policies will impact refugees seeking to flee dire humanitarian situations including war and famine from countries in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa.
The delay, IRC said, is “unjustified”, and blamed the administration for not utilising resettlement as a “critical tool to offer refuge to the most vulnerable”.