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World Relief Laments Zero Refugee Admissions in October 2019

November 1, 2019

Lauren Carl

World Relief Laments Zero Refugee Admissions in October 2019

Leading refugee resettlement organization urges administration to resume refugee admissions as soon as possible

BALTIMORE, Md. – World Relief, a leading faith-based relief and development organization, today mourns the fact that as of yesterday. the U.S. has resettled no refugees for a full month. For at least as far back as World Relief has records, nearly thirty years, there’s never been a month when the U.S. did not receive a refugee – until October 2019. The number is due to a pause placed by the State Department on admissions that has resulted in hundreds of canceled flights and thrust thousands of hopeful refugees back into a state of uncertainty. For the past five fiscal years, the average number of refugees resettled in October by all refugee resettlement agencies has been 4,945 refugees. This news comes on the heels of reports that the Trump administration plans to cap the number of resettled refugees for Fiscal Year 2020 at 18,000 – the smallest number since the advent of the modern refugee program. 

“This isn’t just heartbreaking – it’s unjust,” said Scott Arbeiter, president of World Relief. “Withdrawing our troops from Syria meant unleashing chaos in the region and forcing even more people to flee their homes. To refuse to open our doors is to abdicate responsibility for a scenario to which we as a nation have contributed. I urge the administration to reconsider its approach and set a cap that better represents the compassion and hospitality of the American people.”

Of the hundreds of flights canceled as a result of the State Department’s pause on admissions, 126 were scheduled to carry refugees whom World Relief was to have resettled. Almost all of those were expecting to be reunited with family members already in the U.S. Additionally, some of the refugees scheduled to enter the country in October face expiring security checks, and may not be able to enter once the pause is lifted until they are again cleared after another round of security protocols. 

“It’s a shame that at a time when we’re facing the world’s worst refugee crisis since World War II, and we’re seeing the ongoing new displacement of Syrians, Rohingya and others, that the U.S. has accepted zero refugees this month, for the first time in our records,” said Jenny Yang, vice president of advocacy and policy at World Relief. “We should be doing more, not less, and keeping the door open to protect the persecuted who have no safe place to go.”

Since 1979, World Relief has resettled approximately 300,000 refugees. Throughout that time, it has advocated for an approach to resettlement that combines security and compassion. The Refugee Act of 1980, which established federal procedures for security and background checks, has successfully met those criteria: Since its passage, more than 3 million refugees have been resettled to the U.S. by all agencies, but not one has taken the life of a U.S. citizen in a terrorist attack. Even in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the State Department resumed admissions after just a short pause, allowing those fleeing violence around the globe to find safe haven on our shores. World Relief urges our federal leaders to adhere to a model that has served us so well and raise the ceiling for admissions to its historical levels.

For more information about World Relief’s refugee resettlement work and other projects, visit

Download the PDF version of this press release.


About World Relief:

World Relief is a global Christian humanitarian organization that seeks to overcome violence, poverty and injustice. Through love in action, we bring hope, healing and restoration to millions of the world’s most vulnerable women, men and children through vital and sustainable programs in disaster response, health and child development, economic development and peacebuilding, as well as refugee and immigration services in the U.S. For 75 years, we’ve partnered with churches and communities, currently across more than 20 countries, to provide relief from suffering and help people rebuild their lives.

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