The United States resettled zero refugees in the month of October. It was the first time since reporting began that the number was so low.
That’s down from roughly 5,000 refugees resettled each October over the past five years, according to World Relief, a faith-based relief and development organization, which blamed the drop on a pause the US State Department placed on refugee admissions “that has resulted in hundreds of canceled flights and thrust thousands of hopeful refugees back into a state of uncertainty.”
Among the refugees cancelling flights were 126 people who were scheduled for resettlement by World Relief, almost all of whom were meeting family already living in the United States, the organization said. Jenny Yang, World Relief’s vice president of advocacy and policy, said the country has locked its gates amid “the world’s worst refugee crisis since World War II.”
There are about 26 million refugees around the globe, including many victims of torture, and women and girls who are fleeing violence or persecution, according to the United Nations, and only a tiny fraction of those will ever be resettled.
The UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, criticized an announcement that the United States would accept no more than 18,000 refugees in the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, down from a cap of 30,000 refugees in the previous 12 months and 45,000 the year before. The UNHCR said the admissions ceiling of 18,000 “leaves thousands of the most vulnerable refugees in risky circumstances" and "sends a counterproductive message to other countries on the need for more burden-sharing.”
There are already more than 18,000 refugees waiting in the US resettlement pipeline, according to UNHCR, and the shrinking admissions rate will leave many lives in limbo.