GENEVA – Less than five per cent of refugees in need of resettlement in Western countries found new homes last year, the United Nations said, as the United States scaled back its acceptance of displaced people under President Donald Trump.
The United States took in 17,113 resettled refugees in 2018, leading 27 countries who resettled a total of 55,692 refugees under programmes run by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, the UNHCR said on Tuesday.
But that was down from Washington’s acceptance of 24,559 resettled refugees in 2017, Trump’s first year in office, and 78,761 in 2016, the last full year of the Obama administration, UNHCR figures show.
The overall total of resettled refugees last year was 10,000 fewer than in 2017 and less than half of the 126,291 in 2016.
Canada was the second highest receiving country last year with 7,713 resettled refugees, followed by Britain (5,702), France (5,109) and Sweden (4,861).
“Despite record levels of worldwide forced displacement, just 4.7 per cent of global refugee resettlement needs were met in 2018,” UNHCR spokeswoman Shabia Mantoo told a news briefing.
Syrian refugees living in countries across the Middle East and Turkey accounted for 28,174, or more than one-third of the total 81,310 refugees referred by UNHCR to resettlement countries last year for consideration, said Mantoo.
Refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea and Afghanistan followed, many of them having fled violence and torture, she said.
“Resettlement remains a life-saving tool to ensure the protection of those most at risk,” Mantoo said. It was also a
“a tangible mechanism for governments and communities across the world to share responsibility”.
The Trump administration has been less willing to take in refugees and migrants. On Feb. 15, Trump declared a national emergency in a bid to fund his promised wall at the U.S.-Mexico border without congressional approval. Trump says he wants to honour a 2016 campaign pledge to curtail illegal immigration, but his opponents quickly filed lawsuits against his move.
(Reuters – Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Mark Heinrich)