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Exclusive: Dozens of refugee resettlement offices to close as Trump downsizes program

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Refugee resettlement companies are making ready to shutter greater than 20 offices throughout the United States and in the reduction of operations in additional than 40 others after the State Department instructed them to pare their operations, in accordance to plans seen by Reuters.

The slated closures, that are being reviewed by the State Department for remaining approval, comply with President Donald Trump’s choice to dramatically scale back the quantity of refugees that will likely be allowed into the United States in 2018.

The State Department has mentioned the drop in refugee numbers, from the 110,000 ceiling set by the Obama administration to 45,000 for 2018, means the nation not wants all of the 324 resettlement offices that have been working on the finish of 2017. This yr’s cap on refugees is the bottom since 1980.

The offices, run by personal non-profit companies that contract with the U.S. authorities, present a variety of companies to refugees, from aiding them find housing and jobs, to serving to them navigate banking, medical care, faculty enrollment and different complexities of life in America.

(For a graphic on the closures: tmsnrt.rs/2BpD8UZ)

Opponents of the resettlement program say it’s extra expensive to resettle refugees within the United States than it’s to give support to displaced folks abroad.

“The changes will consolidate smaller affiliates, reduce costs and simplify management structures to help the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program run in a way that is fiscally responsible and sustainable in the long term,” State Department spokeswoman Cheryl Harris mentioned in an electronic mail.

Refugees can entry companies from the resettlement facilities for up to 5 years after they first arrive, so the closures may doubtlessly have an effect on hundreds of latest arrivals, mentioned Robert Carey, who directed the Office of Refugee Resettlement underneath President Barack Obama.

“The population doesn’t go away when you turn off the spigot,” Carey mentioned. “If the intent is really to have people integrate into society then doing this is counter to that intent.”

The Trump administration has mentioned it needs refugees to assimilate rapidly, each to promote nationwide safety and in order that they’ll grow to be self-sufficient. 

“We’ve never seen a cut of this size and also a cut of this impact,” mentioned Hans Van de Weerd an government on the International Rescue Committee, one of the 9 resettlement companies.

While the dimensions of the U.S. refugee program has fluctuated through the years, it has by no means seen an across-the-board reduce to dozens of offices in such a brief interval of time, he mentioned.

Van de Weerd mentioned the cuts may make it troublesome for the United States to ramp up refugee numbers sooner or later. “It took years to build up this capacity,” he mentioned. “Once you break it down it’s not easy to build it up again.”

Some of the proposed closures are in cities with a couple of resettlement workplace, however others are in locations the place residents may have no different place to flip.

The solely two resettlement offices in Louisiana would close, and the one workplace in Hawaii would have to sharply curtail its operations, in accordance to the plans developed by the companies.

While the one resettlement workplace in Hawaii will stay open for now to present ongoing companies, it is not going to settle for any new refugees this yr and as a end result will obtain far much less in authorities funding to assist refugees already residing within the state, mentioned Eskinder Negash, the performing head of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, which companions with the Hawaii middle.

NATIONWIDE CUTS

The plans to shutter native offices have been drawn up after a Dec. 1 assembly between State Department officers and representatives of the refugee companies. The authorities instructed the companies that offices anticipated to deal with fewer than 100 refugees in fiscal yr 2018 would not be licensed to resettle new arrivals.

In response, the companies drew up proposals for closing some offices and downsizing the operations of others.

In addition to the closures, 11 deliberate new offices, two in Washington State and others in locations from New Mexico to Indiana, is not going to be opening their doorways in 2018.

Early in his administration, Trump issued an government order quickly barring all refugees, which was challenged in courtroom, however finally carried out with some revisions. Since then, the federal government has added new vetting procedures for refugees and their households making use of to come to the United States from sure international locations deemed to be safety dangers.

The vetting measures are possible to considerably decelerate the tempo of arrivals, refugee organizations have mentioned, and in the long run the United States might not attain its cap for the yr of 45,000 refugees.

In January, 1,385 refugees have been admitted, in contrast to 6,777 in the identical month final yr and four,376 in January 2016, in accordance to authorities statistics.

Reporting by Mica Rosenberg; Additional reporting by Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Sue Horton and Ross Colvin

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