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Renewed US ban bounces refugees from hope to despair again

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The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) is deeply dismayed by the new executive order on immigration and refugee resettlement issued today by US President Donald Trump, barring citizens of six Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States of America, while suspending the refugee resettlement programme for 120 days.

The new executive order will disrupt thousands of lives due to terrorism fears without factual basis.

“The process of refugee resettlement should be orderly, not an emotional rollercoaster. For the second time in just over a month, imposing this ban further punishes families that already fled their home countries. Refugee lives are not ping-pong balls. When the US government says that it has agreed to resettle refugees, it should follow through on that promise, admitting everyone who has been already vetted,” said Joel Charny, US Director of Norwegian Refugee Council.

NRC has two major concerns with the new executive order.

Firstly, the ban discriminates against refugees by unjustly depicting them as a threat to the United States. Refugees already go through a thorough vetting process before they enter the US, a process taking up to four years. The women, men and children who have come through this process pose a miniscule risk to the security of the US. They are only guilty of fleeing war and persecution, and wanting a better life for their families.

Secondly, reducing the accepted number of refugees to the United States from 110,000 to 50,000 is shameful for a country so wealthy.

"The new policy sends a dangerous message to the world that the United States, with all its resources, has abandoned its commitment to addressing the global refugee crisis,” warned Charny.

“The effects of this rhetoric are far reaching beyond America’s borders. What happens here today gives momentum to nationalist movements in Europe and elsewhere, that persecution and religious intolerance are acceptable. It sets a poor example for far less wealthy countries, like Lebanon and Uganda, who have generously taken in refugees and may now question their own commitment. The global refugee regime depends on American leadership.”

The Norwegian Refugee Council makes the following recommendations as the new immigration settlement policy is implemented:

  • Refugees already fully vetted and waiting for transportation should be allowed to enter the United States, with particular focus on family reunification cases, and cases of special vulnerability and distress. While the new executive order does not apply to those ‘formally scheduled’ for transit by the State Department, the exact meaning of this phrase is unclear and could limit the numbers to those for whom tickets have already been purchased. All officially vetted and cleared refugees in the pipeline should be resettled.
  • The review of the refugee vetting process should proceed in an open and transparent way, with the public release of the findings as the review proceeds.
  • Upon completion of the review and the institution of new procedures as required, the resettlement goal for 2017 should be restored to 110,000 given the new confidence in the vetting process.