President Donald Trump has decided to suspend the refugee program and banned the entry of Syrian refugees into the US indefinitely.
Donald Trump has also halted the issuing of visas to the nationals of six other mainly Muslim countries, including Iran, Iraq, Yemen and Libya, for three months.
The president said the measures were part of new measures to “keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the US”.
Rights groups have condemned the move, saying there is no link between Syrian refugees in the US and terrorism.
Under Donald Trump’s wide-ranging executive order, all refugee admissions have been suspended for four months.
President Trump signed the order at the Pentagon after a ceremony to swear in Gen. James Mattis as defense secretary.
During the ceremony, President Trump said: “I’m establishing new vetting measures to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America. We only want to admit those into our country who will support our country and love deeply our people.”
Image source Flickr
The text of the order was released several hours after it was signed. Among the measures are:
Suspension of the US Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days
A ban on refugees from Syria until “significant changes” are made
A 90-day suspension on anyone arriving from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen, except certain visa categories such as diplomats
To prioritize future refugee applications from those persecuted for their religion – but only if the person is part of a minority religion in their home country
A cap of 50,000 refugees in 2017 – less than half of the upper limit under President Barack Obama
However, a mention of creating “safe zones” within Syria, seen in an earlier draft, was removed from the final order.
The executive order also said all immigration programs should include questions to “evaluate the applicant’s likelihood of becoming a positively contributing member of society.”
In a TV interview broadcast earlier on January 27, President Trump said Christians would be given priority among Syrians who apply for refugee status in the future.
Other measures include a broad review of the information required from all countries to approve a visa; a review of visa schemes between nations to ensure they are “truly reciprocal” for US citizens; and the immediate suspension of the Visa Interview Waiver Program.
However, the document says exceptions to most restrictions could be made on a case-by-case basis.
President Donald Trump also signed an executive order aimed at rebuilding the military by “developing a plan for new planes, new ships, new resources and new tools for our men and women in uniform”.
In 2016, Barack Obama’s administration admitted 10,000 Syrian refugees into the US. Neighboring Canada – whose population is a ninth of that of the US – took in 35,000.
During the election campaign, Donald Trump suggested a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on”.
However, he has made no mention of this since his victory last November.
The executive order has been met with criticism from rights organizations, Democrats and notable figures.
Democratic Senator Kamala Harris noted that the order had been signed on Holocaust Memorial Day.
“Make no mistake – this is a Muslim ban.
“During the Holocaust, we failed to let refugees like Anne Frank into our country. We can’t let history repeat itself,” she said.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said he was “profoundly saddened” and President Trump had sent “a shamefully different message” than the country’s founding beliefs.
Donald Trump Jr. has caused uproar on social media by comparing Syrian refugees to Skittles candy.
Trying to suggest the US should not accept any refugees, Donald Trump’s eldest son asked the question: “If I had a bowl of skittles and I told you just three would kill you, would you take a handful?”
“That’s our Syrian refugee problem.”
Donald Trump Jr. added: “This image says it all. Let’s end the politically correct agenda that doesn’t put America first.”
The food analogy has been used before to imply that, if a few people in a group are bad, it would be dangerous to take a single one in.
The language in Donald Jr.’s tweet was used in a post by conservative radio host Joe Walsh in August.
Following tweet by the Republican presidential candidate’s son, the company that owns Skittles, Wrigley, stepped in.
Image source Flickr
Denise Young, vice-president of corporate affairs for Wrigley America, said: “Skittles are candy. Refugees are people.
“We don’t feel it is an appropriate analogy.
“We will respectfully refrain from further commentary as anything we say could be misinterpreted as marketing.”
There has been no reaction from the campaigns of the main presidential candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Angered by Donald Trump Jr.’s statement, however, some people posted images of child refugees on their Twitter feeds.
Many of the posts both mocked the comparison and tried to highlight the plight of Syrians caught up in their country’s civil war.
In a tongue-in-cheek article, Washington Post journalist Philip Bump did some calculations around Donald Trump Jr.’s statement, using data showing that the annual chance that an American would be murdered by a foreign-born terrorist was 1 in 3,609,709.
Based on Philip Bump’s sums, it would take about one and a half Olympic swimming pools of Skittles in order to find three killers.
Some people on Twitter used the meme to reflect on their feelings about the 2016 presidential race.
However, many supporters of Donald Trump and right wing commentators welcomed his son’s message and hit out at the criticism online, referring to recent attacks in the US.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that all EU countries must be prepared to send security staff to the bloc’s external borders.
Speaking as she arrived at an EU leaders’ summit in Brussels, Angela Merkel said it would be unfair to ask EU countries seeing the majority of initial refugee entries to secure borders as well.
The meeting aims to secure Turkey’s agreement to a plan to halt the flow of refugees trying to reach Europe.
Nearly 600,000 refugees have reached the EU by sea so far this year.
Describing the current situation as “very disorderly”, Angela Merkel said: “It’s quite obvious that only a few countries today take the majority of refugees and if these countries now are asked to secure the external borders on top of that, I don’t think it would be what we could call a fair distribution of effort.”
The summit aims to tackle the migration crisis by working with non-EU countries, protecting the EU’s external borders and ensuring some migrants are sent back.
Estonian PM Taavi Roivas said immediate action was needed to preserve the EU’s borderless Schengen area, which has come under increasing pressure, with some states reintroducing controls to prevent migrants from crossing borders.
Meanwhile Hungary’s PM Viktor Orban said his country would decide whether to close its border with Croatia by October 16.
Hungarian state TV reported Viktor Orban as saying he would prefer the EU to defend its external border in Greece but could seal its Croatian border “within an hour if necessary”.
There were also calls for member states to address the causes of migration by providing more money for Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey and for development in Africa.
“Member states need to put their money where their mouth is,” said EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.
Meanwhile, EU negotiators in Ankara are making “good progress” in talks with Turkish officials, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said.
Turkey is hosting some two million refugees, most of them fleeing the war in neighboring Syria.
It has also called for the establishment of an international “safe zone” for refugees inside northern Syria.
The 28 EU leaders meeting in Brussels are hoping the Turkish government will sign up to a joint action plan that includes: greater financial and procedural support for Turkey to deal with refugees; gaining permission from Turkey to help patrol its coastline; combating people smuggling; strengthening return operations.
Turkey is expected to press for progress towards visa-free travel for its citizens to European countries within the so-called Schengen area.
About two million people have fled to Turkey in more than four years of conflict in Syria. Every week thousands seek to enter the EU – typically via Greece – with many heading towards northern Europe.
Germany accepted the largest number of asylum claims in 2014 and expects to see as many as 800,000 in 2015. Sweden had the second-highest number of asylum seekers.
At a New Hampshire rally, Donald Trump talked about the current refugee crisis saying that he would send home all Syrian refugees the US accepts, if he becomes president.
The Republican presidential frontrunner said: “If I win, they’re going back.”
It marks a reversal in policy – earlier this month Donald Trump told Fox News the US should take in more refugees.
A refugee crisis has gripped parts of Europe and the US has pledged to take 10,000 refugees from Syria in 2016.
Half a million people have crossed the Mediterranean into Europe in 2015, with the largest number from Syria, where 250,000 people have been killed in a civil war.
On September 30, Donald Trump told an audience at Keene High School: “I hear we want to take in 200,000 Syrians. And they could be – listen, they could be ISIS [Islamic State].”
Describing them as a “200,000-man army”, the billionaire later added: “I’m putting the people on notice that are coming here from Syria as part of this mass migration, that if I win, if I win, they’re going back.”
Donald Trump has made immigration a central plank of his election campaign, pledging to build a wall on the southern border.
He was harshly criticized after saying undocumented Mexican immigrants were “bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists”.
Donald Trump’s latest comments about sending Syrians home are more in line with his hardline immigration policy, although at odds with what he said earlier this month.
Asked whether he thought some of the migrants travelling into Europe should be allowed in the US, the business mogul said: “I hate the concept of it, but on a humanitarian basis, with what’s happening, you have to.”
Donald Trump blamed President Barack Obama for the crisis and added: “It’s living in hell in Syria. They are living in hell.”
The US has allowed 1,500 Syrians to re-settle since the start of the conflict four years ago.
A number of Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, have urged the US to increase the number of Syrians from 10,000 to 65,000.
Secretary of State John Kerry has pledged to take more refugees worldwide, raising the yearly cap from 70,000 to 85,000 in 2016 and to 100,000 in 2017.
Germany and Austria are expecting thousands more migrants to arrive from Hungary after Budapest government eased restrictions on their travel on September 5.
Thousands of migrants traveled to the Austrian border by bus, by train and on foot before moving on to Vienna and Munich.
Austrian officials are laying on more trains as needed.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is to hold talks with her coalition partners on a crisis that has divided the EU.
After days of confrontation and chaos, Hungary opened its borders with Austria and bussed thousands of migrants to the frontier.
Up to 10,000 arrived at the border on September 5, according to the Austrian authorities, who have said they do not plan to limit the numbers crossing into the country.
Many traveled straight on to Munich, southern Germany, where locals greeted them with applause, giving sweets to the children among the new arrivals.
They have been sent on to reception centers to be registered and receive food and clothing.
Both Germany and Hungary have said the current measures are aimed at averting a humanitarian crisis, and will not set a precedent.
The rules requiring refugees to apply for asylum in the first country they land in “are still valid, and we expect other European Union member states to stick to them”, a German government spokesman said.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has said Germany can cope with the influx of newcomers without raising taxes or jeopardizing its budget.
Germany is the key destination for arrivals on European shores, and expects to take in 800,000 people this year.
Syrians fleeing a brutal civil conflict are the largest group travelling, followed by Afghans and Eritreans.
There is little sign of a co-ordinated EU response to the crisis, despite more than 350,000 migrants having crossed the EU’s borders in 2015 alone.
Germany, backed by the European Commission, has been pushing for a quota system for dividing the people reaching Europe between member states.
However, this has been opposed by several eastern members.
On September 5, Hungary said that while it had temporarily relaxed restrictions on the transit of asylum seekers, it was pressing ahead with plans to tighten border controls and could send troops to its southern frontier if parliament agreed.
Lebanon has imposed stricter conditions for Syrians entering the country in a bid to slow the flow of asylum seekers trying to escape the war.
Previously, travel between Syria and Lebanon was largely unrestricted, but now Syrians will have to obtain a visa.
Lebanon hosts more than a million Syrian refugees and this is the latest step to try to stem the influx.
Millions of Syrians have been displaced by the civil war as rebel forces try to oust President Bashar al-Assad.
The uprising began with protests against Bashar al-Assad’s rule in 2011 and degenerated into civil war in 2012. The rise of Islamist groups has added to the refugee problem.
Lebanon, which shares a border with Syria, is one of the most affected country by the large numbers of refugees.
Before now, Syrians could stay in Lebanon for up to six months automatically. Under the new measure, Syrians wanting to enter Lebanon will have to fulfill certain criteria in order to be granted a visa at the border.
It is unclear what the rule will mean for the many Syrians already in the country and not registered as refugees.
Every Syrian wanting to enter Lebanon will need to state a clear purpose for their visit, and, if approved, a visa will be issued for a certain duration.
Syrians coming to work in Lebanon will also have to be sponsored by a Lebanese individual or company.
A spokesman for the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in Lebanon, Ron Redmond, said that over the past 6 to 8 months a number of measures had already reduced the number of people seeking registration as refugees. But the UN had worked out a system with the government to enable the most vulnerable to still gain access.
Lebanon has long been struggling to cope with the number of refugees fleeing the war in Syria.
There are currently more than 1.1 million registered refugees in Lebanon putting a huge strain on the country’s infrastructure and resources.
The Lebanese government says the actual number of refugees in the country is about 1.6 million.
Clearly the Lebanese government wants to reduce the flow, says Rami Khouri, Senior Fellow at the Issam Fares Institute at the American University of Beirut.
Many refugees live in poor conditions.
In October, Lebanon’s social affairs minister announced that the country would stop accepting all refugees except emergency cases, but would still allow Syrians to enter for other purposes, such as work and tourism.
The latest UNHCR figures show a total of 3.2 million Syrians registered as refugees in Lebanon and elsewhere.
Three hundred people have been rescued by Salamis Filoxenia cruise ship off Cyprus after their boat ran into trouble in rough seas.
The stranded are thought to be Syrian refugees.
The refugees were taken aboard the Salamis Filoxenia, Limassol port master Girgos Pouros said. All are said to be in good health.
Most of the people on the small fishing boat that sent a distress signal were women and children.
They were spotted 55 nautical miles south of the town of Paphos.
Cypriot authorities said they picked up a radio distress signal as the boat was caught in rough seas
“It was quite a difficult operation,” Kikis Vasiliou, director of Salamis Cruises that owns the cruise ship, was quoted as saying by the Cyprus Mail website.
“All the passengers are safe.”
The vessel was expected to dock in Limassol later on Thursday, September 25.
Cypriot authorities earlier said they picked up a radio distress signal as the boat was caught in rough seas.
This year has seen a dramatic increase in the number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean in overcrowded boats – particularly people fleeing the conflict in Syria. The majority have headed for Italy and Malta.
Libya, racked by unrest and lawlessness, has become a major people-trafficking hub. However, Cyprus lies closer to Syria.
More than 2 million Syrians refugees have left the country until now, the UN says.
At least 700,000 have fled to Lebanon, and more Syrians are now displaced than any other nationality, the UNHCR says.
France and the US are continuing to push for military action over alleged chemical weapons use by Syrian forces.
There are suggestions that President Barack Obama may be planning much wider action than the limited strikes that have been publicly proposed.
The reports emerged as senior US politicians were set to speak before a congressional committee, to rally support for intervention.
The UNHCR said in a statement on Tuesday: “Syria is haemorrhaging women, children and men who cross borders often with little more than the clothes on their backs.”
Around half of those forced to leave are children, UN agencies estimate, with about three-quarters of them under 11.
More than two million Syrians are now refugees
Just 118,000 refugee children have been able to continue in some sort of education, and only one-fifth have received some sort of counselling, with agencies warning of a “lost generation” of child refugees ill-equipped to help rebuild Syria in the future.
Lebanon has received the highest number of refugees, even though it is the smallest of Syria’s neighbors and one of the least able to cope.
There is now thought to be one Syrian refugee in Lebanon to roughly every six Lebanese. Jordan and Turkey have taken in the second and third highest numbers respectively.
As well as those who have left the country, a further 4.25 million have been displaced within Syria, the UNHCR says, meaning that more Syrians are now forcibly displaced than is the case with any other country.
Pointing out that more than 97% of Syria’s refugees are being hosted by countries in the surrounding region, the UNHCR said the influx was “placing an overwhelming burden on their infrastructures, economies and societies”.
It once again appealed for “massive international support” to help neighboring countries deal with the crisis.
International aid agencies are also struggling to cope with the crisis, having only 47% of funds required to meet “basic refugee needs”, the UNHCR says.
“It took two years to reach the first million refugees. It took six months for the second million to be reached,” said the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres.
He said officials could envisage three million refugees by the end of 2013.
One of the biggest single waves of refugees occurred in mid-August, when thousands from north-eastern Syria poured over the border into Iraqi Kurdistan.
Iraq has the fourth largest population of Syrian refugees, with over 170,000.
The UN says the conflict in Syria has caused the world’s worst refugee crisis for 20 years, with numbers not seen since the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
More than 100,000 people are thought to have died since the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011.
Thousands of Syrian refugees are pouring over the border into Iraqi Kurdistan, the UN refugee agency says.
Up to 10,000 crossed at Peshkhabour on Saturday, adding to an earlier influx of 7,000 on Thursday.
The UN agencies, the Kurdish regional government and NGOs are struggling to cope, correspondents say.
The UN says the reasons are not fully clear, but there has been a sharp rise in clashes between Syrian Kurds and anti-government Islamist militants.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says this is one of the biggest single waves of refugees it has had to deal with since the uprising against the rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011.
The latest refugees are mainly families and have come from a broad stretch of territory in northern Syria.
They have been taking advantage of a new pontoon bridge over the Tigris.
Thousands of Syrian refugees are pouring over the border into Iraqi Kurdistan
Some 150,000 Syrian refugees are already registered in Iraq, of the 3 million said to have fled Syria in total since the uprising began.
The UNHCR says its field officers spotted the first group of 750 Syrians before noon on Thursday but in the afternoon, some 5,000 to 7,000 people followed.
The UN said the latest refugees had come from Aleppo, Hassakeh, Qamishli and other areas of conflict.
On Friday, UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards told reporters in Geneva: “The factors allowing this sudden movement are not fully clear to us.”
The UN said it was working with the Iraqi Kurdistan government and other agencies to establish a camp at nearby Darashakran.
“This should open in two weeks, and our hope is it will relieve pressure,” Adrian Edwards said.
The ethnic make-up of the latest wave has not been detailed.
Kurds make up about 10% of the Syrian population and are largely concentrated in the north-east.
They staged their own anti-Assad protests after the Syria conflict began in 2011 and their areas have been run by Kurdish local councils and militia since government forces withdrew last year.
But the Kurdish militias have recently been fighting jihadists of the anti-Assad al-Nusra Front, leaving dozens dead.
The president of Iraqi Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani, recently threatened to intervene to defend the Kurdish population caught up in Syria’s unrest.
Massoud Barzani said if Kurds were “under threat of death and terrorism” then Iraqi Kurdistan would be “prepared to defend them”.
Iraqi Kurdistan comprises three provinces in northern Iraq. It has its own military and police force.
The United Nations has announced that the number of Syrian refugees who have fled the conflict has reached a million.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees said the number of people seeking haven in neighboring countries had jumped since the beginning of the year.
Half of the refugees were children, the UN said, most of them under 11 and often traumatized by their experiences.
The largest numbers of refugees were seeking shelter in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt.
The figure includes registered refugees and newer arrivals awaiting registration.
“Syria is spiraling towards full-scale disaster,” the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said in a statement, warning that the international humanitarian response capacity was “dangerously stretched”.
“This tragedy has to be stopped,” he added, warning that the influx of people had also stretched the resources of Syria’s neighbors.
The millionth refugee recorded by UNHCR was a 19-year-old mother of two called Bushra.
“Our situation is so bad, everything is so expensive, we can’t find any work… The situation is so bad, I live with 20 other people in one room,” Bushra told reporters in the Lebanese city of Tripoli.
The number of Syrian refugees who have fled the conflict has reached a million
Many of those who have fled conflict now live in difficult conditions, with poor sanitation and insufficient resources to cope with the harsh winters.
In Lebanon, for example, the influx of almost a third of a million refugees since last February has swollen the country’s population by 10%.
Turkey, providing a temporary home for some 184,000 refugees, has spent more than $600 million setting up 17 refugee camps, and was building new ones to meet the increasing need, the UN said.
“These countries should not only be recognized for their unstinting commitment to keeping their borders open for Syrian refugees, they should be massively supported as well,” Antonio Guterres said.
On Tuesday, King Abdullah of Jordan called on world nations to help his country, Turkey and Lebanon to shoulder “the tremendous burden” of caring for the huge influx of people.
UK charity Oxfam says that only 20% of $1.5 billion promised by international donors in January has arrived, “leaving agencies struggling to respond to the urgent needs of refugees”.
The rush of refugees has surprised even UN experts, who had originally estimated that the one million figure would not be reached until the end of June 2013.
In effect, more than 400,000 have became refugees since 1 January 2013.
The UN’s emergency response plan for Syrian refugees, it said, currently lacked 75% of the funding required.
Jordan’s Petra news agency said that a total of 2,257 Syrian refugees had crossed into the country on Tuesday alone.
Some 110,000 of those who have sought shelter in Jordan are living in the desert camp of Zaatari, near its northern border with Syria.
The conflict in Syria began almost two years ago with demonstrations against the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
The protests quickly turned violent as opponents of Bashar al-Assad took up arms to try to resist a brutal crackdown by the authorities.
The conflict has left more than 70,000 people dead and two million internally displaced.
Also on Wednesday, the Commander of the rebel Free Syrian Army, General Selim Idriss, has called for the lifting of the EU arms embargo against Syria, saying it is having a much more negative effect on the opposition than on the Assad regime.
Gen. Selim Idriss said opposition forces desperately needed weapons and ammunition, and that the war would be longer and bloodier if the embargo remained in place.