WASHINGTON     -      President Donald Trump has signed off on a plan that continues a dramatic drop in the number of refugees taken in by the US to no more than 18,000 in fiscal year 2020.

When the State Department first announced the plan in September religious and humanitarian groups sharply criticised the administration.

In the last full year of the Obama administration, the refugee ceiling was 85,000. This year, the Trump administration set the limit at 30,000. That number was the lowest since the modern resettlement program’s creation in 1980.

In a statement issued on Saturday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo noted that refugee resettlement “is only one aspect of US humanitarian-based immigration efforts”. He cited diplomatic efforts to find solutions to crises as well as humanitarian aid.

Refugee admissions into the US have declined substantially during Donald Trump’s presidency. Every fall, the U.S. president sets a refugee ceiling – the maximum number of refugees who may enter the country in a fiscal year.

In fiscal 2017, about 53,700 refugees resettled in the U.S. – a figure that reflects a temporary freeze on refugee admissions that Trump ordered shortly after taking office.

The following year, Trump’s first full fiscal year in office, he set the nation’s refugee ceiling at 45,000, a new low at the time, and the U.S. ultimately admitted about 22,500. Trump then set the refugee ceiling at 30,000 for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2019, and refugee admissions reached this cap. For fiscal 2020, which started Oct. 1, 2019, Trump has set a ceiling of 18,000 refugees.

Historically, the total number of refugees coming to the U.S. has fluctuated with global events and U.S. priorities. From fiscal years 1990 to 1995, an average of about 116,000 refugees arrived in the U.S. each year, with many coming from the former Soviet Union.