Congolese Refugee Admissions Decrease Under Administration’s Discriminatory Policies

February 19, 2020

Washington, D.C.– Church World Service today expressed grave concern over the decrease in admissions of Congolese refugees through the United States Refugee Admission Program (USRAP). For the first time since Fiscal Year 2016, the group no longer makes up the largest caseload being admitted through the vital humanitarian program. Ukrainian refugees now take the top spot, a direct result of the Trump Administration’s cruel policies severely limiting refugee admission from certain discriminatory categories. The news comes as the Democratic Republic of the Congo remains one of the most dangerous and violent places on Earth.

“Congolese refugees are one of the most vulnerable groups on the planet. They face violence and persecution, from both the government and armed militias. The men, women, and children praying for resettlement likely have not known one single day of peace in their lives. Now, because of immigration policies rooted in discrimination, many of them likely never will,” said Reverend John L. McCullough, President and CEO of Church World Service. “When we as a country allow hate and prejudice to influence our behavior, we abandon those in need to lives of abject horror and undo our legacy as a leader in refugee protection.”

As of Monday, February 10th, 1,014 Congolese refugees have been resettled in Fiscal Year 2020, compared to 1,018 Ukrainian refugees. This month alone, admission of Ukrainian refugees nearly tripled that of Congolese refugees (160 to 55). For perspective, from the beginning of  FY2016 through the end of FY2019, the United States resettled 46,583 Congolese refugees and 13,893 Ukrainian refugees.

The change in admissions results from the Trump Administration’s Report to Congress last fall, which introduced categories significantly limiting Congolese arrivals (as part of the “other” category that applies to all refugees not within the religious persecution, Iraqis who worked alongside the U.S. government, or Central American categories). Since FY 2016, the majority of refugees being resettled in the US have been from the Democratic Republic of Congo, as the United States designated them a priority group to be resettled out of refugee camps in Rwanda (FY 2014 – 2019) and Tanzania (FY 2017 – 2019). In FY 2020, their priority designation was not included in the Report to Congress.

Troublingly, the decrease in admissions of Congolese refugees comes as the U.S. government urges U.S. citizens to reconsider travel to the Democratic Republic of the Congo because of crime, civil unrest, and disease. And, according to the State Department, the country has a “precarious human rights situation” in which there are:

[U]nlawful killings by government and armed groups; forced disappearances and abductions by government and armed groups; torture by government; arbitrary detention by the government; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; political prisoners; arbitrary interference with privacy, family, and home; threats against and harassment of journalists, censorship, internet blackouts, site blocking, and criminal libel; substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association; delayed elections and restrictions on citizens right to change their government through democratic means; corruption and a lack of transparency at all levels of government; violence against women and children, caused in part by government inaction, negligence; unlawful recruitment of child soldiers; crimes involving violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons and persons with disabilities or members of other minority groups; trafficking in persons, including forced labor, including by children; and violations of worker rights.

This comes as the House is considering the No Ban Act (S.1123 / H.R.2214), an important piece of legislation that would terminate the Muslim, refugee, and asylum bans – and prohibit future discrimination based on where you come from or what faith you practice. Church World Service calls on members of Congress to pass this critical bill and hold the administration accountable for restoring American leadership on refugee protection.

For more information or to speak with Church World Service experts, contact Christopher Plummer at