The United States has lifted a ban on refugees from 11 “high-risk” countries but has said those seeking to enter the US would come under much tougher scrutiny than in the past.
Applicants, from unnamed but understood to include 10 Muslim-majority nations, plus DPRK, will face tougher “risk-based” assessments before admission.
“It’s critically important that we know who is entering the United States,” said Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.
“These additional security measures will make it harder for bad actors to exploit our refugee programme, and they will ensure we take a more risk-based approach to protecting the homeland.”
U.S. President Donald Trump has pursued a much tougher stance on immigrants and refugees from all countries since his inauguration one year ago.
The Trump administration banned refugees from 10 Muslim-majority nations and DPRK in October and although the barred nations have not been officially named, refugee groups say Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, North Korea, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen have all seen the effects of the ban.
Refugee rates were halved to 45,000 in the fiscal year 2018 when the ban went into effect in October and only 23 people from those 11 nations have entered the US since October, according to Reuters.
The 23 were allowed in following the partial block by a federal judge on Trump’s administration’s restrictions claiming that refugees with significant ties to the United States would still need to be processed while the ban was in effect.
Just last week, Trump proposed to end the 27-year-old “green card lottery” programme that aims to diversify the source of immigrants, leading to an upturn in those from Middle Eastern and African countries.
He also proposed to tightly limit the family members who can join immigrants to only spouses and younger children.
The White House has said the policy was necessary to protect national security from terror and crime threats, AFP news agency reports.
In return, Trump proposed a plan that offers 1.8 million young unauthorised immigrants known as “Dreamers” a path to citizenship over 10-12 years.