Trump Administration slashes resettlement of religious minorities

Washington D.C., July 15, 2019 – The U.S. Department of State will host the second annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom this week in Washington, D.C., where leaders from government, civil society, and religious groups around the world will convene to discuss the state of religious freedom today, and concrete ways to preserve these freedoms in the future. However, an International Rescue Committee (IRC)analysis shows a drastic withdrawal by the U.S. on protections for religious minorities.

“With drastic cuts to U.S. resettlement protection for religious minorities, the very goal of this Ministerial is fatally undermined,” said Nazanin Ash, Vice President of Global Policy & Advocacy at The International Rescue Committee. “The Trump Administration cannot cheer on the world to protect religious minorities in one breath, while substantively cutting its own protections for these groups in the next.”

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The necessary protections for persecuted religious minorities through the U.S. resettlement program paint a picture of retreat, amidst growing challenges according to Pew Research Center:

  • More than a quarter of governments worldwide imposed substantial restrictions on religion as of 2016, nearly the highest level over the past decade.
  • The number of countries with patterns of societal hostilities against certain religious groups was at approximately the same level.
  • While Christians and Muslims are the most widely targeted groups, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and adherents of many other minority religions also suffer from persecution in large numbers.

As the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom identified in its 2018 report, the refugee admissions program remains a vital path to safety for some of the world’s most persecuted populations. During a time when the Administration considers its FY2020 refugee admissions level, it must also consider its commitment to religious minorities, and set a refugee admissions level commensurate with global crises. No religious group has been spared by these cuts to refugee admissions – below are some groups highlighted in IRC’s analysis:

  • Only 66 Iranian Christians have been offered protection so far this year, compared to 2,086 in FY2016 overall – a 97 percent drop;
  • Only 58 Iraqi Christians have been offered protection through resettlement so far this year, compared to 1,525 in FY16 – a 96 percent drop;
  • Only 14 Iraqi and Syrian Yezidis have been offered protection through resettlement so far this year, compared with 417 in FY16 – a 97 percent drop; and
  • Only 523 Rohingya Muslims have been offered protection through resettlement so far this year, down from 2276 in 2016 – a 77 percent drop

The Trump Administration’s concerted dismantling of the U.S. resettlement program has reduced America’s role in assisting religious minorities – just as the number of people impacted by religious persecution worldwide is rising. Amidst these important conversations, The IRC urges the United States to renew its commitment to refugee resettlement and the protection of persecuted religious minorities.

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 26 offices across the U.S. helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.