Friday, March 08, 2019

A Few Iranian Christian Refugees Admitted To U.S.; Many Others Await Visas

NBC News reports that U.S. authorities have recently allowed about a dozen Armenian Christian refugees from Iran admission under the Lautenberg-Specter law that provides for visas for persecuted religious minorities from the former Soviet Union and Iran.  The refugees were admitted after a federal judge last July ordered the Department of Homeland Security to provide the reasons for denial of applications from 87 Iranian refugees waiting in Vienna for their visas to be processed. (See prior posting.) NBC reports in part:
Under Trump, the Lautenberg-Specter program has virtually ground to a halt for Iranians. The program includes what used to be a short processing stay in Vienna, but more than 70 Iranian applicants, mostly Christians, have been stuck in Austria for more than two years, their lawyers said. In the past, applicants would be granted U.S. visas after a period of few months in Austria, according to the lawyers and former U.S. officials.
Applicants in Ukraine and other former Soviet states have been admitted without major delays, humanitarian groups said....
 "The increased denial rate was not due to the president’s executive orders but to changes in vetting implemented in 2016," the [State Department] spokesperson said in an email, adding that new applications were still being accepted....
The number of Christian refugees admitted to the United States declined by about 36 percent in fiscal year 2018 compared to the previous year.... The drop is part of a broader decline in overall refugee admissions.