The U.S. government announced it will start admitting refugees from most countries again after a 120-day ban, but will impose new restrictions on refugees from Iran and 10 other countries where it sees security risks.
While the government allowed its temporary refugee ban to expire as scheduled on October 24, it was replaced with a restrictive new executive order that refugee agencies said would continue to make access difficult for about half of all refugees who recently have sought sanctuary in the United States.
"The security of the American people is our highest priority," said U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Associate Director Jennifer Higgins.
Besides Iran, refugee agencies said restrictions -- such as requiring a 90-day review of applicants by intelligence and security agencies -- will apply to refugees from Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Mali, North Korea, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.
All of the countries singled out except North Korea are predominantly Muslim, and together they have accounted for the largest share of refugees seeking sanctuary in the United States.
In the fiscal year ending on September 30, for example, out of 53,716 refugees accepted into the United States, 22,150 came from Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Somalia.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court on October 24 dismissed a case challenging the legality of the refugee ban, citing its expiration.
Based on reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters