Trump ends refugee ban with order to review program for 11 countries

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Executive order ends 120-day suspension of refugee processing as White House refuses to name 11 countries facing 90-day review

Donald Trump has signed an executive order ending his temporary ban on refugee admissions to the US, while calling for a 90-day review of the program for 11 countries his administration has deemed high risk.

The president had previously suspended the processing of all refugees to the US for a period of 120 days as part of a previous executive order, issued in tandem with the his travel ban on several Muslim-majority countries. The 120-day window came to a close on Tuesday, prompting an announcement from the White House that essentially resumed the US refugee program but with enhanced security measures mirroring the extreme vetting Trump has called for since taking office.

The White House declined, however, to name the 11 countries that would be subject to a new 90-day review, saying only that applicants from those countries would be considered on a case-by-case basis.

A memo obtained by Reuters stated the government review would seek to determine what additional safeguards, if any, were necessary to ensure that the admission of refugees from these countries of concern does not pose a threat to the security and welfare of the United States.

As of the end of 2016, higher-security screening was required for most adult male nationals of Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, North Korea, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, as well as Palestinians who lived in those countries. It was not immediately clear if the 11 countries referred to in Trumps executive order were the same ones.

The Trump administration separately issued a revised travel ban last month barring entry to immigrants from Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen. That executive order was temporarily halted by a US district judge last week, hours before its implementation.

As a candidate, Trump vowed to ban all Muslims from entering the US. He also stood aggressively against the acceptance of refugees from Syria, stating that those fleeing the war-torn country may be Isis.

Theres absolutely no way of saying where these people come from, Trump said at a town hall in February 2016.

The United States has one of the most stringent vetting systems in the world with respect to refugees. Statistics released by the Department of Homeland Security in June showed that the number of refugees admitted to the US had fallen by nearly half under Trump when compared with the final months of Barack Obamas presidency.

The executive order issued on Tuesday will also place on hold a program that allows for family reunification for some refugees resettled in the US. The resettling of so-called following-to-join refugees will resume once screening enhancements have been implemented.

Opponents of Trumps travel and refugee bans have argued that the policies were aimed at barring Muslims entry to the US. The administration has denied any intent to discriminate and argued that its travel ban and security changes were meant to protect the US from terrorist acts.

Refugee advocates said Trumps latest action continued to place barriers before the most vulnerable of populations.

This will add months, or potentially years, to the most urgent cases the majority of which are women and children in heinous circumstances who need the permanent and proven solution of resettlement, said Jennifer Sime, senior vice-president of US programs at the International Rescue Committee.

With a world facing brutal and protracted conflicts like in Syria, or new levels of displacement and unimaginable violence against the Rohingya this moment is a test of the worlds humanity, moral leadership, and ability to learn from the horrors of the past.

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