New York, NY, February 1, 2018 — The Trump Administration announced today an 18-month extension of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Syrians, but the announcement did not re-designate TPS for Syria. While the IRC welcomes the 18-month extension, we are profoundly concerned and indeed confused by the decision not to re-designate TPS for Syria. As a result, families who arrived after August 1, 2016 will not be eligible for temporary protection. This is simply bad – even irrational – policy, especially when the State Department unequivocally recognizes that “no part of Syria is safe from violence.”
By extending protections for the at least 6,900 TPS holders who came to the U.S. prior to August 1, 2016, the Administration is sending a clear signal that it recognizes that Syria is not safe for returns. In such a context, the failure to provide temporary protection for those arriving after an arbitrary date simply makes no rational sense. Syrians, regardless of when they arrived to the U.S., cannot be safely returned. This policy decision simply shifts the “costs” of protecting refugees to the already-overburdened U.S. asylum system.
To add insult to injury, only 1,706 Syrian refugees have been resettled in the U.S. since February 1, 2017 —just days after President Trump reversed historical course on refugee admissions through the Muslim Ban/Refugee Ban. This accounts for just 6 percent of all refugees finding safety through the U.S. refugee admissions program under the current Administration. This compares with the arrival of 15,312 Syrian refugees to the U.S. in the same 11-month period from February through December the previous year, or nearly 17 percent of all arrivals.
Meanwhile, the war in Syria shows no signs of abating. Fighting and airstrikes have caused over 270,000 people to flee their homes in northwest-Syria since mid-December alone. The majority have been displaced within or to Idlib (176,000), though with some also arriving in western Aleppo province (60,000). It is estimated that around 360 villages have emptied as people have fled. 6,500 are forced from their homes every day.
This policy decision is yet another example of the Administration’s retreat from global humanitarian leadership at the expense of the most vulnerable, at the expense of families hoping to be reunited, at the expense of young children seeking a future free from violence. If the Administration will not protect all Syrians, who will they protect? If this moment in time is a test of policy coherence, character and courage, then the U.S. is failing.