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US lifts ban on refugees from 11 countries

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    AFP

Washington | Tue, January 30, 2018 | 07:55 am
US lifts ban on refugees from 11 countries Dozens of immigration activists, clergy members and others participate in a protest against the imprisonment and potential deportation of immigration activist Ravi Ragbir in front of the Federal Building on January 29, 2018 in New York City. A federal judge ordered immigration activist Ravi Ragbir be released from custody on Monday, granting him a temporary reprieve from deportation to his native Trinidad and Tobago. (Getty Images,/AFP /Spencer Platt)

The United States announced Monday it was lifting its ban on refugees from 11 "high-risk" countries, but said those seeking to enter the US would come under much tougher scrutiny than in the past.

Applicants from 11 countries, unnamed but understood to include 10 Muslim-majority nations plus North Korea, will face tougher "risk-based" assessments to be accepted.

"It's critically important that we know who is entering the United States," said Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

"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."

The 11 countries, hit with a ban in October in the Trump administration's revised refugee policy, have not been identified officially.

But refugee groups say they comprise Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, North Korea, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Speaking anonymously, a senior administration official told journalists that the policy of enhanced security assessments for the 11 countries was not designed to target Muslims.

"Our admissions have nothing to do with religion," the official said, adding that there is "nothing especially novel" about tougher screening for countries deemed to have a higher level of risk.

Donald Trump has pursued a much tougher stance on immigrants and refugees from all countries since becoming president one year ago.

Annual refugee admissions have been slashed by more than half to a maximum of 45,000 in fiscal 2018, which ends on September 31.

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