US & Canada

Reality Check: The US and refugees

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On 28 January, President Trump signed an executive order, which, among other things, indefinitely bans Syrian refugee arrivals as well as all other refugees for 120 days.

He also promised "to prioritise refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual's country of nationality".

The executive order imposed a cap of 50,000 on the number of refugees for 2017, less than half of the 110,000 admissions that President Obama planned.

Has the number of refugees in the US and, in particular, those from Syria, risen in recent years?

The number of refugees admitted to the US over the past 10 years has fluctuated, from the low of 48,282 in 2007, to the high of 84,995 in 2016.

In the first three months of the new financial year, a total of 25,671 were admitted.

In 2016, of the nearly 85,000 refugees admitted, the highest number - 16,370 - arrived from DR Congo, followed by Syria with 12,587 and Myanmar (Burma) with 12,347.

The number of Muslim refugees who entered the US in 2016 was 38,901, making up almost half (46%) of the total, according to this Pew Research report from October 2016.

The report says this is the highest number of Muslim refugees in any year since data on self-reported religious affiliations first became publicly available in 2002.

Between 2011, when the conflict in Syria started, and 2015, the US admitted a relatively small number of Syrian refugees - a total of 201. In 2015 the number increased to 1,682 and in 2016 to 12,587, bringing the total, since the start of the war, to 14,470.

By comparison, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees' latest figures show that the highest number of refugees from Syria since the start of the crisis was taken by Turkey with 2.9 million, Lebanon with one million and Jordan, which took 655,000.

In the same period, the EU took 844,000 Syrians, according to Eurostat, with more than half of the total admitted by Germany.

There have been big differences in the number of refugees arriving year-on-year in the US over the past four decades: from the peak of 207,116 in 1980 to the lowest of 27,131 in 2002.

In total, since 1975, the US has admitted about 3.4 million refugees. Its current population is about 323 million.


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