Fri, Feb 02, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Trump extends protected status for 7,000 Syrians

SMALL CONCESSION:The extension allows Syrians who received Temporary Protected Status until 2016 to stay in the US for 18 months, but does not apply to recent arrivals

Reuters, WASHINGTON

US President Donald Trump’s administration on Wednesday said that it would allow about 7,000 Syrians to remain in the US for at least another 18 months under protected status as civil war rages in their native country.

The decision was a relief for the Syrians, who would have faced the prospect of returning to a fractured country racked with violence if the administration had rescinded their temporary protected status (TPS) when it runs out next month. Instead, they are allowed to stay through Sept. 30 next year.

“After carefully considering conditions on the ground, I have determined that it is necessary to extend the Temporary Protected Status designation for Syria,” US Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement.

“It is clear that the conditions upon which Syria’s designation was based continue to exist, therefore an extension is warranted under the statute,” she added.

The administration stopped short of redesignating Syria’s status, which means that it will continue to benefit only Syrians who have been in the US since 2016 or earlier.

“It fell short that they didn’t redesignate it, but I think it’s a positive action nonetheless that should be praised,” said Monzer Shakally, 21, a Syrian student at the University of Iowa with the temporary status. “I’m happy this decision came out now and I don’t have to worry about this for another 18 months at least.”

Former US President Barack Obama’s administration granted Syrians temporary protected status in 2012, the year after the war in Syria began, and extended it through the end of next month.

The Obama administration redesignated Syria’s protected status several times so that waves of Syrians who had arrived in later years of the conflict could qualify.

There is no end in sight to the conflict in Syria. A peace conference in Russia on Tuesday ended with a call for democratic elections, but key opposition demands were ignored after squabbles and heckling of Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergej Lavrov.

The Trump administration has shown a deep skepticism toward the protected status program, announcing its end for immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan since Trump took office last year. Some of those nationalities were granted the protections more than a decade ago and the administration argued that their crises had since been resolved.

Refugee advocates criticized the Trump administration’s decision not to redesignate Syria’s status, saying it ignored the fact that Syria’s conflict continues to produce new refugees.

“The Trump administration’s decision means that many Syrians who are already here in the US will not be able to apply for TPS status,” Oxfam America senior humanitarian policy advisor Lia Lindsey said.

Some groups that favor immigration restrictions opposed an 18-month extension for Syrians, saying six months would be more appropriate.

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