The US will stop accepting applications for its child refugee program, which helped minors escape violence in Central America. The program was launched in 2014 in response to the flow of minors arriving at the US border.
The United States will no longer accept applications for its special child refugee program, which had allowed minors fleeing violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to apply for asylum in the US before leaving their home countries.
President Donald Trump's administration had informed Congress in September that it intended to scrap the Central American Minors (CAM) program within the new fiscal year. In a statement Wednesday, the State Department announced that no further applications for refugee status under the program would be accepted after 11:59 p.m. EST (0459 UTC) on Thursday.
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From Friday, minors applying for refugee status in the US will be required to go through the normal screening process.
The White House said it had decided to end the program "because the vast majority of individuals accessing the program were not eligible for refugee resettlement."
Trump's executive order in January to beef up US border security, which saw major restrictions against travelers from majority Muslim countries, had triggered a review of the CAM program.
The CAM deadline comes the same week that the government announced that it was also ending "temporary protected status," which had allowed a number of Nicaraguans to live in the US.
According to the Trump administration, it will replace such Obama-era refugee programs with "more targeted" refugee processing in Central America, which it will run in coordination with the Costa Rican government, the United Nations and the International Organization for Migration.
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The CAM program was introduced by Trump's predecessor, President Barack Obama, in December 2014 amid an influx of children fleeing violence and attempting the dangerous journey through Mexico to the United States. The program meant that children could apply and be screened in their home country before traveling out the US. Parents living in the US could also apply for refugee status for the children or relatives who were still living in their country of origin.
As of August 2017, figures released by the State Department showed that 1,500 children and eligible relatives had settled in the US as refugees as part of the CAM program. In total, more than 13,000 had applied over the course of the program's short history.
dm/sms (AP, Reuters)