Trump slashes US refugee quota

Donald Trump.
Donald Trump. Photo credit: Getty

The US has slashed its refugee programme. 

The State Department said on Friday (NZ time) President Donald Trump has cut its quota by 40 percent, from 30,000 a year to 18,000.

And officials have been ordered to give priority to Iraqis who worked with the US military, refugees from Central America  and "people persecuted on account of their religious beliefs".

"It would be irresponsible for the United States to go abroad seeking large numbers of refugees to resettle when the humanitarian and security crisis along the southern border already imposes an extraordinary burden on the US immigration system," the State Department said in a statement.

Trump has made securing the southern border a priority of his first term in office, pouring billions of dollars into building a fence, despite statistics showing the number of attempted illegal crossings has dropped more than 90 percent over the last two decades. 

Reuters reported the new 18,000 quota is the "lowest level in the history of the modern refugee programme", and the New York Times said people "fleeing war and persecution in other countries" will miss out.

Perhaps anticipating criticism, in its statement the State Department said it was "misguided to see our refugee admissions program as the singular measure of America's humanitarian-based immigration efforts".

"At the core of the Trump Administration's foreign policy is a commitment to make decisions based on reality, not wishes, and to drive optimal outcomes based on concrete facts."

In the final year of Barack Obama's presidency, the US accepted about 85,000 refugees. He raised the cap to 110,000 before leaving office, but that was immediately slashed to 50,000 by the incoming Trump administration. 

The new refugee quota is 18 times' bigger than New Zealand's 1000, but the US has 69 times as many people, 100 times the GDP and 34 times the land. New Zealand is expected to raise its quota by 50 percent to 1500 next year.