“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
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.”
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.