US to resume refugee admissions from 11 'high-risk' countries

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States will resume admissions for refugees from 11 countries identified as presenting a high security risk, but with extra vetting for these mostly Middle Eastern and African nations, senior U.S. officials said on Monday.

The changes came after a 90-day review of refugee admissions from Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, North Korea, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen by the State Department, Department of Homeland Security and intelligence agencies.

The new rules are the latest changes to the U.S. refugee program made by the administration of President Donald Trump to address what it sees as national security issues.

RELATED: A look at life in a refugee camp

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Making a living in a refugee camp
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Making a living in a refugee camp
Rashed Al Mashhadani, 44, an Iraqi displaced from al-Zammar district, who fled the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul with his family of 15, shaves a customer at Sewdinan 3 camp, east of Mosul, Iraq, January 24, 2017. Rashed, who has been working as a barber for 24 years, says he feels safe inside the camp despite the financial hardship. He complains about the lack of freedom; most refugees cannot leave the camp and re-enter freely because of security concerns. Here, he earns between 2,000 and 3,000 dinars a day ($2 to $2.5). REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed SEARCH "MOSUL VENDORS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
Ayser Issa Musa, 21, an Iraqi displaced from the village of Khorsibad, who fled the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul with his family, poses for a photograph as he waits for customers at Khazer camp east of Mosul, Iraq, February 6, 2017. Aysar has turned his hand to fixing shoes to support his family of eight. "My brothers and I are working in the camp to survive" he said. "We receive little more than 5,000 Iraqi Dinars ($4.28) a day, but we have no other choice since we cannot return to our village." He and his family fled after fighting destroyed their village, Khorsibad, north of Mosul. Like many others in the camp, they arrived with little cash and few possessions. They have had to fend for themselves. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
Kamal Nofal, an Iraqi displaced from village of Khazer, who fled the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul with his family, poses for a photograph as he sells seeds, sweets and some other items in front of his family tent at Khazer camp east of Mosul, Iraq, February 6, 2017. "I was a taxi driver before 2014 and everything was ok but Islamic State fighters shooed us out of the village to Mosul and confiscated our property." He has been living in the camp for four months and earns between 7,000 and 8,000 dinars a day ($6 to $7). REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed SEARCH "MOSUL VENDORS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Ahmed Ali Abdullah, 31, an Iraqi displaced from Mosul's al-Shaimaa district, who fled the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul with his family, poses for a photograph at the shaving shop where he works in the Khazer camp east of Mosul, Iraq, February 8, 2017. "After Islamic State took control of Mosul in 2014, the situation became very bad and work became futile because people were prevented from shaving their beards and having haircuts... so most customers just shaved at homes out of fear of the Islamic State. I closed my shop and looked for work in the market," Abdullah said. In the camp, he earns 10,000 dinars a day ($8.5) "There is no water, no reliable electricity or cold weather, but it is more secure and stable than Mosul". REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed SEARCH "MOSUL VENDORS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Ahmed Mohamed Yassin, an Iraqi displaced from Aden district, who fled the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul with his family, poses for a photograph next to his cigarette stand as he waits for potential customers at Khazer camp east of Mosul, Iraq, February 6, 2017. "When I was living in Mosul, I was selling cigarettes. Life was good, the markets were booming, but after Daesh came in 2014, they imposed taxes on all sectors under the pretext of Sharia. They confiscated a total of 16 million Iraqi dinars: I had nothing left but managed to escape and out of fear hid in my uncle's home for a week." Yassin has been living in the camp for four months and is earning between 5,000 and 6,000 dinars a day ($4 to $5). "It is an acceptable source of income." REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed SEARCH "MOSUL VENDORS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Qassim Hassan Dawood, an Iraqi displaced from the village of Khorsabad, who fled the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul with his family, poses for a photograph as he sells pickles and olives at Khazer camp east of Mosul, Iraq, February 6, 2017. "During the fighting, we hid in the bathroom for ten days until the area was liberated and then we rushed out towards the Iraqi forces. They helped us leave... to Khazer camp, which is like heaven compared to (life under) Islamic State." Dawood says he earns 4,000 to 5,000 dinars a day ($3.43 to $4.29). "We are more comfortable here. It is enough that my children and I feel safe." REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed SEARCH "MOSUL VENDORS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Moataz Haitham Asi, 18, an Iraqi displaced from the village of Al Kweir, who fled the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul with his family, poses for a photograph as he waits his customers to shave at Khazer camp, east of Mosul, Iraq, February 6, 2017. "I learned cutting hair from my father. I left school because I was worried about the ideas and curriculum which had been adopted in education," Asi says, remembering his youth in Mosul. "If a customer came to shave his hair or beard, we would put someone on the watch because we were worried one of the Islamic State people would come and arrest us." In the camp, Asi works with his father and earns about 5,000 dinars a day ($4.29). REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed SEARCH "MOSUL VENDORS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Saleh Hassan Mohammed, an Iraqi displaced from the district of Hamdaniya, who fled the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul with his family, poses at the vegetable and fruit shop where he works at Khazer camp, east of Mosul, Iraq, February 6, 2017. Once working in interior decoration, he left his home after Islamic State took control of Mosul in 2014. The family first took refuge to another village before settling in the camp. He earns 6,000 dinars a day ($5). REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed SEARCH "MOSUL VENDORS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Ahmed Saleh, an Iraqi displaced from the village of Khorsabad, who fled the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul with his family, poses at the restaurant where he works at Khazer camp east of Mosul, Iraq, February 6, 2017. Saleh used to own a restaurant in his home town, which he and his family left in 2014 after the fighting intensified. They first took refuge in a quieter village, where Saleh worked in another restaurant. In the camp, he earns 20,000 dinars a day ($17). "I can't see any future on the horizon, as I cannot continue to live in the camp and cannot return to my village," he said. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed SEARCH "MOSUL VENDORS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Younis Mahmoud, 21, from the Bartella district in eastern Mosul, who fled the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul with his family, shaves his customer at Khazer camp, east of Mosul, Iraq, February 6, 2017. "After Daesh took control of the city in 2014, haircuts became useless and the conditions of life very difficult... It was forbidden to shave the beard and you needed to follow some criteria to shave heads. They fined me and beat me up when I shaved the hair of one of the children with modern method." Mahmoud works in the camp's main market and earns 8,000 to 10,000 dinars a day ($7 to $8.5). "Life inside the camp is good and safe, but it's expensive." REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed SEARCH "MOSUL VENDORS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Saif Ali Abdullah, 19, from Mosul's al-Shaimaa district, who fled the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul with his family, poses for a photograph at the supermarket where he works in Khazer camp, east of Mosul, Iraq, February 8, 2017. "During the recent battles between the Iraqi forces and Islamic State, I was shot in the head but divine care helped me and one of our neighbours who worked as a rescue worker in the civil defence also helped until we managed to get out with the help of the army." Abdullah completed his treatment in the camp. After recovering his health, he found work in one of the camp's supermarket. He is paid "about 4,000 dinars ($3.4) a day". Before Islamic State entered Mosul in 2014, he was a high-school student. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed SEARCH "MOSUL VENDORS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Noah Wa'ed, 48, an Iraqi Christian displaced from Qaraqosh, who fled with his family when the Islamic State occupied his village in 2014, holds his grandchild as he poses for a photograph at his shop in Ashti 2 camp in Erbil, Iraq, February 12, 2017. Wa'ed remembers how the resident of Qaraqosh, a village with a majority of Christians, were helping each other, how the rich helped the poor, how they had first welcomed the displaced Christians from Mosul before all were all forced to leave. During their escape, the family lived in a church for three days, in a school for three months, later in a hotel and then a house they shared with several families. "Life inside the camp is good but I hope to return to my village if life returns to normal," he said. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed SEARCH "MOSUL VENDORS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Josephine Elias, an Iraqi Christian displaced from Qaraqosh, who fled with her family after Islamic State occupied their village in 2014, poses for a photograph as she is embroidering traditional souvenirs in her caravan in Ashti 2 camp in Erbil, Iraq, February 12, 2017. Once the owner of a shop selling women's clothes, Elias fled with her husband and six sons. She says the family has split now: two of her sons have emigrated to Europe with the help of the United Nations there, and two others are renting a house outside the camp. "I have been doing embroidery and handicrafts, which impressed some neighbours and relatives in the camp. Some people, those with money, asked to buy the embroideries for a small price. Some pieces I just give as a free gift. Many of us don't have enough money," Elias said. She relies on her husband's money. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed SEARCH "MOSUL VENDORS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Nashwan Yousef, an Iraqi Christian displaced from Qaraqosh, who fled the Islamic State with his family after occupied their village in 2014, poses for a photograph at his shop in Ashti 2 camp in Erbil, Iraq, February 12, 2017. "I owned a food shop in Qaraqosh. Business was good and safe until Islamic State came. We thought the matter would be quickly dealt with and we would return after only two or three days, so we left all our possessions behind - money, gold at home, goods in the shop." Yousef, who fled with his wife and four children, moved to a rented house and lived for several months in two different camps before settling in Ashti 2 camp. In the previous camps, he worked as a peddler. At Ashti 2, he built his own shop and earns between 20,000 and 25,000 dinars a day ($17 to $21). "I will return to my village when life goes back to normal and rebuild my destroyed house. Even if I need to build a tent in front of my home, I will do that". REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed SEARCH "MOSUL VENDORS" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
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Some of the administration's actions, including an executive order to temporarily ban all refugees, have sparked lengthy court battles. Refugee advocates have said they see the administration's actions as intended to reduce the number of refugees, particularly those from Muslim countries.

During the review period, which lasted from late October to last week, admissions of refugees from those countries dropped sharply, according to a Reuters analysis of State Department data.

The changes announced on Monday include additional screening for certain people from the 11 countries, and a periodic review of a list of countries identified as presenting higher security risks.

The new guidelines were announced at a press briefing by senior administration officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity. They offered no details about which people from the 11 countries will be subject to the extra screening, citing security concerns.

SEE ALSO: Twitter ignites over photo of Mike Pence posing with Senate pages

The list of "high-risk" countries was last updated by the Obama administration in 2015, the senior administration officials said.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen would like officials to factor in risks to the United States other than terrorism, such as transnational organized crime, a senior administration official said.

During the briefing, officials said refugees will not be barred from admission to the United States solely on the basis of nationality.

"The big picture is that there is no longer a refugee pause on countries, including the 11 high-risk countries, with these measures taking effect," one senior administration official said in a briefing with reporters. "We'll be resuming admissions with the new security measures in place."

In an address at the Wilson Center on Monday morning, Nielsen spoke about the new security measures, saying they "seek to prevent the program from being exploited by terrorists, criminals and fraudsters."

"These changes will not only improve security but importantly they will help us better assess legitimate refugees fleeing persecution," she said.

Refugee advocates said they worry the new security measures will block refugees from the 11 countries from admission to the United States.

RELATED: Award-winning images of the refugee crisis

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Award winning images of the refugee crisis
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Award winning images of the refugee crisis
A red sun is seen over a dinghy overcrowded with Syrian refugees drifting in the Aegean sea between Turkey and Greece after its motor broke down off the Greek island of Kos, August 11, 2015. United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) called on Greece to take control of the "total chaos" on Mediterranean islands, where thousands of migrants have landed. About 124,000 have arrived this year by sea, many via Turkey, according to Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR director for Europe. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis 
Afghan refugees struggle to swim ashore after their dinghy with a broken engine drifted out of control off the Greek island of Lesbos while crossing a part of the Aegean Sea from the Turkish coast September 19, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
An Afghan migrant jumps off an overcrowded raft onto a beach at the Greek island of Lesbos October 19, 2015. Thousands of refugees - mostly fleeing war-torn Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq - attempt daily to cross the Aegean Sea from nearby Turkey, a short trip but a perilous one in the inflatable boats the migrants use, often in rough seas.Almost 400,000 people have arrived in Greece this year, according to the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR, overwhelming the cash-strapped nation's ability to cope. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis 
Afghan immigrants land at a beach on the Greek island of Kos after crossing a portion of the south-eastern Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece on a dinghy early May 27, 2015. Despite the bad weather at least a dingy with over thirty migrants made the dangerous voyage to Greece. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis 
A local man helps a Syrian refugee who jumped off board from a dinghy as he swims exhausted at a beach on the Greek island of Lesbos September 17, 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis 
A Syrian refugee holds onto his two children as he struggles to disembark from a raft on the northern coast of the Greek island of Lesbos, after crossing a part of the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Lesbos September 24, 2015. Over 850,000 migrants and refugees have arrived on the Greek island in 2015. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
An Afghan migrant is seen inside a bus following his arrival by the Eleftherios Venizelos passenger ferry with over 2,500 migrants and refugees from the island of Lesbos at the port of Piraeus, near Athens, Greece, October 8, 2015. Refugee and migrant arrivals to Greece this year will soon reach 400,000, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR)REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
Syrian refugee girl sits in a bus at a temporary registration camp during a rain storm on the Greek island of Lesbos October 21, 2015. Over half a million refugees and migrants have arrived by sea in Greece this year and the rate of arrivals is rising with over 8,000 coming on Monday alone, in a rush to beat the onset of freezing winter, the United Nations said on Tuesday. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis 
A Syrian refugee girl who was briefly separated from her parents cries as she walks through a rainstorm towards Greece's border with Macedonia, near the Greek village of Idomeni, September 10, 2015. Thousands of refugees and migrants, including many families with young children, have been left soaked after spending the night sleeping in the open in torrential rain on the Greek-Macedonian border. About 7,000 people waited in the mud of an open field near the northern Greek village of Idomeni to cross the border, with more arriving in trains, buses and taxis, as Macedonian police has imposed rationing in the flow of refugees. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
A Syrian refugee child cries as she is squeezed by other refugees and migrants trying to move ahead at Geece's border with Macedonia near the village of Idomeni early morning September 7, 2015. Thousands of migrants and refugees were crowding at Greece's border with Macedonia on Monday morning, their entry slowly rationed by Greek and Macedonian police.. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
A Greek policeman pushes refugees behind a barrier at Greece's border with Macedonia, near the Greek village of Idomeni, September 9, 2015. Most of the people flooding into Europe are refugees fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries who have a legal right to seek asylum, the United Nations said on Tuesday. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
Migrants and refugees beg Macedonian policemen to allow passage to cross the border from Greece into Macedonia during a rainstorm, near the Greek village of Idomeni, September 10, 2015. Most of the people flooding into Europe are refes fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries who have a legal right to seek asylum, the United Nations said on Tuesday. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis 
A Macedonian policeman lifts his baton against refugees and migrants as they wait to cross the border from Greece into Macedonia, near the Greek village of Idomeni, September 10, 2015. Most of the people flooding into Europe are refugees fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries who have a legal right to seek asylum, the United Nations said on Tuesday. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
Syrian refugees walk through the mud as they cross the border from Greece into Macedonia, near the Greek village of Idomeni, September 10, 2015. Reuters and The New York Times shared the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography for images of the migrant crisis in Europe and the Middle East. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis 
A Syrian refugee kisses his daughter as he walks through a rainstorm towards Greece's border with Macedonia, near the Greek village of Idomeni, September 10, 2015. Reuters and The New York Times shared the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography for images of the migrant crisis in Europe and the Middle East. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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"Adding yet more hurdles to an already overly bureaucratic process will burden those seeking safety for themselves and their families," Amnesty International USA said in a statement.

Since becoming U.S. president, Trump has imposed numerous limits on the refugee program, including capping the number of refugees allowed into the country in the 2018 fiscal year at less than half the number set by former President Barack Obama for 2017. He also issued an executive order pausing the refugee program pending a thorough review, instituted stricter vetting requirements and quit negotiations on a voluntary pact to deal with global migration.

For each of the last three years, refugees from the 11 countries made up more than 40 percent of U.S. admissions. But a Reuters review of State Department data shows that as the 90-day review went into effect, refugee admissions from the 11 countries plummeted.

Since Oct. 25, the day the 90-day review went into effect, 46 refugees from the 11 countries have been allowed into the United States, according to State Department data.

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