“We are not ter­ror­ists. We will never be ea prob­lem in the US. We only seek safety y.”

The or­der would have barred 60,000 peo­ple around the world from get­ting US refugee visas

New Straits Times - - News - SANG, Myanma r refugee

TIN, her hus­band and five chil­dren have cleared years of refugee hur­dles to come to the United States — blood tests, in­ter­views and back­ground checks. She keeps their phone charged for the US em­bassy to call.

But the odds of that hap­pen­ing dropped pre­cip­i­tously.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s 16page travel ban “to keep the bad dudes out” bars new visas for peo­ple from six Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity coun­tries and shuts down Amer­ica’s refugee pro­gramme through mid-July. His ex­ec­u­tive or­der had been set to take ef­fect yesterday, but a fed­eral judge put it on hold hours be­fore it was to take ef­fect.

The or­der in­cludes a 55 per cent re­duc­tion in refugee visas over­all, from a planned 110,000 to 50,000 this year. This means, in some of the most des­per­ate places in the world, 60,000 refugee visas are not go­ing to be is­sued.

Who are the 60,000 peo­ple who may have lost their chance to re­set­tle in the US by Septem­ber? An Associated Press anal­y­sis of 10 years of refugee data sug­gests that their most com­mon coun­try of ori­gin is not any of the six na­tions in the travel ban, but Myan­mar. Thou­sands, like Tin and her fam­ily, are per­se­cuted in their na­tive coun­try.

They ex­pected to re­set­tle be­fore Septem­ber in the US, a place they con­sider home. More than 160,000 Myan­mar peo­ple have re­set­tled in the US in the past decade, more than any other group. They ac­count for nearly 25 per cent of new US refugees since 2007.

“Amer­ica is re­ally our fa­ther­land in terms of re­li­gion,” said Tin, 38. “They sent their mis­sion­ar­ies to our coun­try and taught us to be Chris­tians. And now we had to es­cape. All we want is to be safe.”

School teacher Sang, 29, a Myan­mar refugee, read through a copy of Trump’s ex­ec­u­tive or­der last week and then looked up, nod­ding.

While he agreed with the need to keep ter­ror­ists out of the US, he said: “We are not ter­ror­ists. We will never be a prob­lem in the coun­try. We will get ed­u­ca­tion, we will work hard. We only seek safety.”

Tin and Sang are among many forced to flee in re­cent years. They live out of suit­cases in ab­ject poverty in Malaysia. Their kids can’t go to school, and they risk de­por­ta­tion or de­ten­tion if they try to re­port a crime.

And, it’s not just them. Hun­dreds of thou­sands of Ro­hingya Mus­lims have also been forced to es­cape the coun­try of 51 mil­lion, where sol­diers torched homes, raped women and killed them in a crack­down that be­gan in Oc­to­ber.

Trump’s “Ex­ec­u­tive Or­der Pro­tect­ing The Na­tion From For­eign Ter­ror­ist En­try Into The United States,” says low­er­ing the cap is nec­es­sary to US in­ter­ests.

But the swift re­duc­tion i n refugee visas in­ter­rupts work un­der way by fed­eral law en­force­ment agen­cies and non-profit agen­cies around the world to vet 110,000 peo­ple this year, the high­est num­ber in decades.

Nearly 38,000 have been ad­mit­ted so far. An­other 72,000 were pre­par­ing to ar­rive be­fore the fis­cal year ends in Septem­ber. In­stead, un­der Trump’s or­der, just 12,000 more will be al­lowed in. Ex­cep­tions can be made if the sec­re­taries of state and home­land se­cu­rity agree.

The US de­fines refugees as peo­ple of “spe­cial hu­man­i­tar­ian con­cern” who have been per­se­cuted be­cause of their race, re­li­gion, na­tion­al­ity, po­lit­i­cal opin­ion or mem­ber­ship in a par­tic­u­lar so­cial group.

An AP anal­y­sis found that nearly half the refugees who have ar­rived in fis­cal year 2017 came from the seven ma­jor­ity Mus­lim coun­tries named in an ear­lier ex­ec­u­tive or­der.

Refugees from Syria, in par­tic­u­lar, have ar­rived in greater num­bers in the past 12 months. Myan­mar’s share has dropped from 26 per cent of all spots in 2015 to just eight per cent of the refugee caseload.

The AP also found refugees from Bhutan and Afghanistan make up a smaller pro­por­tion ad­mit­ted this year than in pre­vi­ous years.

About 210,000 refugees, largely Viet­namese and Cam­bo­di­ans, came to the US in 1980, the most in any year. Refugee ar­rivals dropped to less than 30,000 af­ter 9/11 prompted strict new im­mi­gra­tion rules. But they have in­creased steadily since 2004, and over­all refugee ad­mis­sions reached 85,000 last year.

The jour­neys of refugees from Myan­mar be­gin in some of the poor­est places on Earth: re­mote vil­lages in strife-rid­den re­gions. They pay smug­glers up­ward of US$500 (RM2,219) for the har­row­ing two-week jour­ney. Some end up in Thai­land, where an es­ti­mated 100,000 live in refugee camps, known lo­cally as “tem­po­rary shel­ters”.

In Malaysia, there are 130,000 refugees from Myan­mar await­ing re­set­tle­ment. They live in the poor­est neigh­bour­hoods, their makeshift ply­wood walls di­vid­ing or­di­nary two-bed­room apart­ment into six sti­fling fam­ily units, a stark con­trast to the city’s glim­mer­ing sky­scrapers.

They can stay for years, their be­long­ings packed in bag­gage, so they can be near the United Na­tions and US em­bassy if called to get stamps on doc­u­ments or meet of­fi­cials.

Ear­lier this week, Tin dropped off her youngest son at a vol­un­teer-run school. A teacher wrote words on the board and asked stu­dents for three de­scrip­tive phrases.

Bauri Ram, 11, stared at his word, Pres­i­dent.

“Don­ald Trump,” some­one had writ­ten. “Help other peo­ple.”

Ram took up the blue marker: “They help refugees.”

AGENCY PIX

Tin leav­ing a school af­ter drop­ping off her chil­dren in Kuala Lumpur.

A Ro­hingya girl car­ry­ing a baby out­side a food dis­tri­bu­tion cen­tre at Ku­tu­palang Un­reg­is­tered refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

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