The Associated Press reported Wednesday afternoon that while the Trump administration is likely to extend the temporary protected status of about 7,000 Syrians by 18 months past the March 31 expiration date, it won’t let additional Syrian citizens apply for the program, anonymous sources told the news agency.
Instead, the administration has reportedly decided not to re-designate Syria as a country with “conditions that prevent its citizens from returning safely”—meaning that Syrians who are already protected with TPS can stay in the U.S. for another year and a half, but other Syrian citizens without it would no longer be eligible to apply once the program expires in March.
There are over five million Syrians who have fled the country in search of asylum, more than any other country in the world.
A 2016 end-of-year United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees report makes clear how little the violence in Syria has abated, and how crippling its effects have been on public life: “After six years of continuous conflict in Syria, healthcare services have deteriorated dramatically due to damaged health facilities [and] power outages.”
There are “shortages of lifesaving medicines, medical supplies, qualified healthcare professionals, specialized medical staff, skilled-birth attendants, ambulances, equipment and medical supplies.” Fifty eight percent of public hospitals and half of public health centers are either only partially functional or completely closed; thirteen million people require health assistance—and those figures are at least a year and a half old.
A spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security did not respond to the Associated Press’s request for comment. The Obama administration allowed about 18,000 Syrian refugees to resettle in the U.S. over a roughly five-year period.
Update, 9:30 PM ET, 01/31/2018:
Hours after the Associated Press report was published, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen formally announced Wednesday evening that DHS would extend the TPS status of about 7,000 Syrian refugees for 18 months.
“It is clear that the conditions upon which Syria’s designation was based continue to exist, therefore an extension is warranted under the statute. We will continue to determine each country’s TPS status on a country-by-country basis,” Nielsen said.
The statement added that, before this round of TPS protections expire in September of 2019, DHS will “review conditions in Syria” to determine whether another extension of the program is necessary.