US President Donald Trump has ordered strict new screening for refugees to keep “radical Islamic terrorists” out of the United States.
On Friday he joined Defence Secretary Jim Mattis for the signing of an executive action to bring sweeping changes to the nation’s refugee policies, potentially also affecting a deal signed by the Australian government with the Obama administration.
“We want to ensure that we are not admitting into our country the very threats our soldiers are fighting overseas,” he said.
“We only want to admit those into our country who will support our country and love deeply our people.”
The order imposes a 90-day ban on all entry to the United States from countries with terrorism concerns.
It’s unclear from the law cited in the directive specifically which countries are affected.
However, a draft of the order earlier this week designated seven predominantly Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
The order also halts entry to the US by Syrian refugees until the president determines that changes to the refugee assistance program ensure that admitting them won’t compromise national security. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull last year signed a deal for the US to accept asylum seekers held on Nauru and Manus Island, some of whom come from Syria, Iraq and Iran.
Turnbull has expressed confidence that the deal will stand.
During the past budget year, the US accepted 84,995 refugees, including 12,587 people from Syria, where a civil war has been raging.
Former president Barack Obama set the refugee limit for this budget year at 110,000, but Trump plans to cut that to 50,000.
Trump’s executive order says that while the program is suspended, the US may admit people on a case-by-case basis when “in the national interest” and the government will continue to process refugee requests from people claiming religious persecution, “provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country.
“ In an interview with a Christian broadcaster on Friday, Trump said persecuted Christians would be given priority in applying for refugee status. ”We are going to help them,” Trump said.
“They’ve been horribly treated.”