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US lifts refugee ban from 11 'high-risk' countries

The United States on Monday lifted a ban on admissions to refugees from 11 countries that it identified present a high security risk, while announcing new vetting measures.

The changes came after a 90-day review by the White House of refugee admissions from the North Korea, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Those seeking to enter the United States would undergo a risk-based assessment, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said in a statement on Monday.

"These additional security measures will make it harder for bad actors to exploit our refugee program, and they will ensure we take a more risk-based approach to protecting the homeland," DHS secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said.

The measures include additional screening for certain nationals, and a periodic review and update of the refugee high-risk country list and selection criteria.

Last year, US President Donald Trump signed a directive setting the country's annual refugee cap at 45,000, the lowest annual limit since 1980. It was one of a string of limits he imposed on the US refugee program.

The United States has admitted roughly 6,500 refugees since the 2018 fiscal year began in October, compared with about 32,000 during the same period last year, according to State Department figures.

Among them, 332 refugees who had been admitted to enter America so far this fiscal year came from "high-risk" countries, compared with nearly 16,000 in the same period last year.

Xinhua / PNA