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Number of Christian Refugees Entering the US Hits Historic Low

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The US has significantly cut the number of Christian refugees it welcomed in the last two years and dramatically slashed the number of Muslim refugees. 

In the fiscal year 2018, the US received just 15,748 Christian refugees, compared to 24,764 in the fiscal year 2017 and 36,822 in the fiscal year 2016. That's a 57 percent drop in just two years, according to State Department records.

Meanwhile, the US has cut the number of Muslim refugees by even greater margins. In the fiscal year 2018, just 3,495 entered the US, compared to 22,861 in the fiscal year 2017 and 38,900 in the fiscal year 2016.  

The numbers are in line with the Trump administration's policy to reduce the overall number of refugees entering the US. Just 22,491 arrived in the fiscal year 2018 despite a 45,000 refugee ceiling. 

It's a dramatic decrease from the previous decade. From 2010-2017, the number of refugees entering the US each year has ranged from 53,716 to 84,994.

Matt Soerens, the US director of church mobilization for World Relief, says the new trend couldn't come at a worse time, noting that the overall number of refugees worldwide has been growing. The UN estimates the current number to be greater than 25 million.

Soerens travels the country for World Relief to promote immigration and refugee awareness and the ministries that serve them. He says many people of faith don't realize that the Trump administration has greatly reduced the number of Christian refugees entering the US.

"I don't think it's something that many people are aware of, even in the church," he told CBN News Tuesday.

The number of Christian refugees arriving from Iraq, Iran, and Syria dwindled to almost nothing in the last two years. Just 23 entered the US from Syria in the fiscal year 2018, a 68 percent drop from the fiscal year 2016.

Soerens says he has no reason to believe that fewer Christians are applying for refugee status in the US, and he's not sure why the US isn't coming closer to meeting its cap.

A State Dept. spokesperson speaking on background to CBN News about the drop in Christian refugees said the US remains committed to international religious freedom but indicated that security concerns are also driving policy. "The United States will continue to resettle the most vulnerable refugees including those who have fled religious persecution while prioritizing the safety and security of the American people," the spokesperson said.

In recent weeks, the Trump administration has argued that it makes more sense for refugees, especially in the Middle East, to seek refuge in neighboring countries rather than the US. 

Speaking at the UN in New York, President Trump said such an approach is economical. "The most compassionate policy is to place refugees as close to their homes as possible to ease their eventual return to be part of the rebuilding process," he said.

The dramatic decrease in US admissions is not only limiting options for refugees; it's impacting humanitarian groups like World Relief that work with churches to provide refugee support services. For decades, World Relief's core ministry has been caring for newly admitted refugees in the US. "We're still doing so, but it's on a very limited basis," said Soerens. 

World Relief closed five offices last year and has let go of 140 staff in the last two years. Soerens cited an Ohio office which used to receive a new refugee family every week and now hasn't had a family arrive since the beginning of summer.

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About The Author


Heather Sells covers wide-ranging stories for CBN News that include religious liberty, ministry trends, immigration, and education. She’s known for telling personal stories that capture the issues of the day, from the border sheriff who rescues migrants in the desert to the parents struggling with a child that identifies as transgender. In the last year, she has reported on immigration at the Texas border, from Washington, D.C., in advance of the Dobbs abortion case, at crisis pregnancy centers in Massachusetts, and on sexual abuse reform at the annual Southern Baptist meeting in Anaheim