Supreme Court’s nod to travel ban heightens refugee worries
AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — Syrian refugee Mahmoud Mansour fears he and his family will get stuck in Jordan instead of resettling in the United States, and this week’s Supreme Court ruling on the Trump administration travel ban added to his dread.
The ruling upholding the entry ban for residents from seven countries, including Syria, doesn’t directly kill the Mansours’ chances of joining family members in the U.S.
However, previous Trump administration restrictions on entry did affect Syrian refugees, leading to a growing backlog of cases, at a time when the U.S. lowered the cap on refugee admissions.
In such a climate, Mansour, an artisan who embroiders traditional dresses, said his hopes are dwindling. Trump has “devastated us since he took office” in January 2017, he said.
“I don’t think any country will take us,” said the 44-year-old who fled to Jordan with his family in 2012, running from Syria’s brutal civil war.
More than 6 million Syrians have fled their homeland, most settling in overburdened regional host countries such as Jordan. Many have depleted savings, survive on menial jobs if they can get them and dream of either going back to Syria or moving on to a Western country to guarantee a better future for their children.
“We are trapped like these birds,” Mansour said, pointing to two canaries in cages hanging from the wall of a sparsely furnished rental apartment in the Jordanian capital of Amman.
Mansour, his wife and four daughters had been undergoing security vetting at one point under a resettlement program run by the U.N. refugee agency.
However, they along with other refugees got stuck in the procedural pipeline as the Trump administration issued and revised entry restrictions since last year.
Two older brothers, Ahmed and Suleiman, managed to reach the U.S. as part of the U.N. refugee agency’s resettlement program, joining an uncle, a U.S. citizen, in Connecticut. Suleiman and his family reached the U.S. from Amman a day before Trump’s inauguration.
The latest version of the travel ban has been fully in place since December, when the Supreme Court justices put the brakes on lower court decisions that had blocked part of it from being enforced. The policy applies to travelers from five countries with overwhelmingly Muslim populations: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. It also affects two non-Muslim countries, blocking travelers from North Korea and some Venezuelan government officials and their families.
The current ban does not directly affect the U.N. program of resettling refugees in the United States, said Chris Boian, a spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency in the U.S. “Refugees will still be admitted under the vigorous vetting requirements,” including from the countries affected by the travel ban.
However, a backlog of cases has built up as the Trump administration worked its way through several versions of the ban. The original ban barred Syrian refugees from the U.S. until further notice. A revised ban suspended the entire refugee program for four months to allow for a security review.
Trump also reduced the maximum global number of refugees the U.S. is willing to absorb in 2017 from 110,000 to 50,000. Coupled with the backlog, the lower ceiling on refugee admissions further reduces the chances of the Mansours and others to reach the U.S.
Globally, a growing number of particularly vulnerable refugees is competing for a smaller number of resettlement spots, the U.N. refugee agency said in a report this week.
In 2019, about 1.4 million refugees will need to be resettled to third countries, while the number of resettlement places globally dropped to just 75,000 in 2017, the agency said. At such a pace, it would take 18 years for the world’s most vulnerable refugees to be resettled.
Daniel Gorevan of the Norwegian Refugee Council said the Trump administration is setting a bad example when compared to efforts made by Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, in absorbing refugees.
“We are strongly calling for those richer countries who have the ability to host refugees to step up to the plate, including with resettlement, including with increased financial support to the countries which host the vast majority of them,” he said.
Associated Press writer Karin Laub in Amman, Jordan contributed.