Document: Trump administration to add new screening for refugees


NEW YORK/WASHINGTON, Oct 24 (Reuters) - The Trump administration will require all refugees to provide information about their whereabouts going back a decade, twice as long as before, during screening for admission to the United States, starting on Wednesday, according to a State Department document seen by Reuters.

The U.S. government is also taking a step that refugee advocates say will in effect pause the admission of most adult male refugees from 11 countries as well as some Palestinians, for whom a certain kind of advanced security screening is now required. The government has instructed organizations that process refugees abroad not to put in requests for that kind of screening, known as a Security Advisory Opinion, until new guidelines are sent.

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The changes, which the memo said will take effect on Wednesday, come at the close of a 120-day ban on most refugees ordered by President Donald Trump to allow a review of vetting processes. The 120 days are up on Tuesday.

Trump took office in January with a goal of sharply cutting refugee admissions, in line with the hard-line immigration policies that were a focal point of the Republican’s 2016 election campaign. Trump quickly issued temporary bans on refugees and travelers from some Middle Eastern and African countries that were challenged in court.

The bans' opponents argued that the policies were aimed at barring Muslims from the United States. The administration has denied any intent to discriminate and argued that its travel ban and security changes were meant to protect the United States from terrorist acts.

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Protests against Trump's proposed travel ban
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Protests against Trump's proposed travel ban
People protest U.S. President Donald Trump's travel ban outside of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Seattle, Washington, U.S. May 15, 2017. REUTERS/David Ryder
A man holds an umbrella during a protest of U.S. President Donald Trump's travel ban outside of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Seattle, Washington, U.S. May 15, 2017. REUTERS/David Ryder
A protester from Amnesty International rallies against U.S. President Donald Trump's new executive order temporarily banning the entry of refugees and travelers from six Muslim-majority countries in Sydney, Australia, March 9, 2017. REUTERS/Jason Reed
Demonstrator protests against President Donald Trump's revised travel ban outside the offices of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., March 16, 2017. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski
A woman protests against U.S. President Donald Trump's travel ban outside of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Seattle, Washington, U.S. May 15, 2017. REUTERS/David Ryder
Chrissy Pearce protests outside the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals courthouse in San Francisco, California February 7, 2017, ahead of the Court hearing arguments regarding President Donald Trump's temporary travel ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries. REUTERS/Noah Berger
Demonstrators protest against President Donald Trump's revised travel ban outside the offices of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., March 16, 2017. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski
Demonstrators protest against U.S. President Donald Trump's revised travel ban outside the offices of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., March 16, 2017. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 28: Protestors rally in front of the Trump Building on Wall Street during a protest against the Trump administration's proposed travel ban and refugee policies, March 28, 2017 in New York City. The Trump administration's proposed travel ban includes a provision that would bar refugees entry into the United States for 120 days. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 28: Protestors place photographs of refugees in rafts in front of the Trump Building on Wall Street during a protest against the Trump administration's proposed travel ban and refugee policies, March 28, 2017 in New York City. The Trump administration's proposed travel ban includes a provision that would bar refugees entry into the United States for 120 days. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 16: Demonstrators protest outside the office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on March 16, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. The demonstrators were protesting the revised travel ban that the administration of President Donald Trump was trying to implement. The ban, which would restrict travel from six predominantly Muslim countries, was supposed to be instituted today but was halted yesterday by a federal judge in Hawaii. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Demonstrators gather near The White House to protest President Donald Trump's travel ban on six Muslim countries on March 11, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / Tasos Katopodis (Photo credit should read TASOS KATOPODIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Demonstrators gather near The White House to protest President Donald Trump's travel ban on six Muslim countries on March 11, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / Tasos Katopodis (Photo credit should read TASOS KATOPODIS/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 3: Protestors write messages directed toward President Donald Trump on lanterns near the Washington Monument, February 3, 2017 in Washington, DC. The protest is aimed at President Trump's travel ban policy. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Thousands of protesters with banners and placards march through central London during a demonstration against U.S. President Donald Trump on February 4, 2017 in London, England. Thousands of protesters march from the U.S. Embassy in London to Downing Street today against President Trump's executive order banning immigration to the USA from seven Muslim countries. (Photo by Jay Shaw Baker/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 29: Linda Sarsour attends a rally to protest the executive order that President Donald Trump signed clamping down on refugee admissions and temporarily restricting travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries in New York City on January 29, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/WireImage)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 03: Demonstrators protest against US President Donald Trump's ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries entering the US on February 3, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. The demonstrators are protesting against United States President Donald Trump's travel ban affecting citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
Rosalie Gurna, 9, holds a sign in support of Muslim family members as people protest against U.S. President Donald Trump's travel ban on Muslim majority countries, at the International terminal at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
People protest against President Donald Trump's travel ban in New York City, U.S., February 1, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Demonstrators participate in a protest by the Yemeni community against U.S. President Donald Trump's travel ban in the Brooklyn borough of New York, U.S., February 2, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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The State Department memo outlines few new procedures for refugee screening, but it strengthens some existing ones. Going forward, for example, all refugees will have to provide "phone, email and address information going back ten years instead of five" for all places where they have lived for more than 30 days.

The memo also says the U.S. government will require the collection of current phone and email addresses for all family members of refugees. At present, that information is usually collected only for relatives with connections to the United States, according to a person familiar with refugee processing.

The new requirements will put an additional burden on refugees fleeing war, famine or ethnic cleansing, whose lives have often been upended and whose family members may be scattered across the world, refugee advocates said.

A White House spokeswoman declined to comment on the new procedures, referring questions to the Department of Homeland Security. DHS spokesman Dave Lapan said there would be an announcement on refugees later on Tuesday.

A State Department official declined to answer questions about the changes, but said the administration had conducted the refugee screening review "to uphold the safety of the American people." The official said the conclusion of the review "will be made publicly available soon."

The new screening guidelines will apply not only to refugees starting the pre-screening process but also to those who have already been pre-screened and are scheduled for a more extensive interview, according to the State Department document.

The document also said that anyone who had already completed the interview process and been referred for an SAO, a higher level of security screening by multiple federal agencies, would have to be re-interviewed to ask the additional questions.

The memo said that refugee processing centers abroad will not be able to request new SAOs for refugees until there is further guidance from the government. The centers request the SAOs on the basis of guidelines issued by the U.S. government.

As of the end of 2016, SAOs were required for most adult male nationals of Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, North Korea, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, as well as for some Palestinians, according to a State Department document seen by Reuters. Three sources familiar with refugee processing said that list was still current.

Reuters reported last week that the Trump administration was considering expanding the mandatory SAOs to include women from those countries. It was not immediately clear if that change had been finalized and will be part of the new refugee vetting process.

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Canada refugee camp swells from New York border crossers
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Canada refugee camp swells from New York border crossers
A Haitian refugee sticks his head out of the window from a tent set up from Canadian Armed Forces near the border in Lacolle, Quebec, August 10, 2017. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
A refugee rests in tents set up by the Canadian Armed Forces near the border in Lacolle, Quebec, Canada August 10, 2017. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
Members of the Canadian Armed Forces carry cots to the newly erected tents they assembled to help deal with the influx of asylum seekers near the border in Lacolle, Quebec, Canada August 10, 2017. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
Refugees stand outside one of the tents set up to house the influx of asylum seekers by the Canadian Armed Forces near the border in Lacolle, Quebec, Canada, August 10, 2017. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
Refugees stand outside one of the tents set up to house the influx of asylum seekers by the Canadian Armed Forces near the border in Lacolle, Quebec, Canada August 10, 2017. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
Members of the Canadian Armed Forces carry cots to the newly erected tents they assembled to help deal with the influx of asylum seekers near the border in Lacolle, Quebec, Canada August 10, 2017. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
Members of the Canadian Armed Forces carry cots to the newly erected tents they assembled to help deal with the influx of asylum seekers near the border in Lacolle, Quebec, Canada August 10, 2017. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
Refugees sit outside one of the tents set up to house the influx of asylum seekers by the Canadian Armed Forces near the border in Lacolle, Quebec, Canada August 10, 2017. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
Members of the Canadian Armed Forces carry cots to the newly erected tents they assembled to help deal with the influx of asylum seekers near the border in Lacolle, Quebec, Canada August 10, 2017. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
A refugee stands inside one of the tents set up to house the influx of asylum seekers by the Canadian Armed Forces near the border in Lacolle, Quebec, Canada August 10, 2017. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
A Haitian refugee walks from his tent, one of the many set up by the Canadian Armed Forces to deal with the influx of asylum seekers at border in Lacolle, Quebec, Canada August 10, 2017. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
Refugees stand outside one of the tents set up to house the influx of asylum seekers by the Canadian Armed Forces near the border in Lacolle, Quebec, Canada August 10, 2017. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
Members of the Canadian Armed Forces walk past tents they erected to house asylum seekers at the Canada-United States border in Lacolle, Quebec, August 9, 2017. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
Members of the Canadian Armed Forces rest after erecting tents to house asylum seekers at the Canada-United States border in Lacolle, Quebec, August 9, 2017. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
Members of the Canadian Armed Forces install electricity for the tents erected to house asylum seekers at the Canada-United States border in Lacolle, Quebec, August 9, 2017. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
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It was also not clear when the State Department would issue the further guidance referenced in the memo. Without a completed SAO, refugees from those countries will not be able to travel to the United States, advocates said.

Citizens of the 11 countries, plus Palestinians, comprised 44 percent of the nearly 54,000 refugees admitted into the United States in the 2017 fiscal year, according to State Department data.

Of the countries, Iraq, Syria, Somalia and Iran sent by far the most refugees to the United States. All but two of the countries, North Korea and South Sudan, are majority Muslim, though many of the refugees that come from those countries are religious minorities in their own states. Of the nearly 2,600 Iranian refugees who resettled in the United States as refugees last year, for instance, a majority were of various Christian sects, according to State Department data.

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