0349 GMT October 20, 2019
Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump called Monday for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the United States in the most provocative response to last week’s terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, California, which left 14 people dead and 21 injured.
UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming told a news briefing in Geneva that “what (Trump) was speaking of was an entire population but this also impacts the refugee program.”
“Because our refugee program is religion-blind,” she stressed. “Our resettlement program selects the people who are the most in need.”
The United States has resettled only about 1,500 Syrian refugees since 2011, when the conflict began in Syria.
The Obama administration plans to bring 10,000 Syrian refugees to the country this year. The figure, announced in September, was for the US fiscal year that began in October.
Fleming expressed concern that up to 40 US governors were against the resettlement program.
"We are concerned that the rhetoric that is being used in the election campaign is putting an incredibly important resettlement program at risk that is meant for the most vulnerable people - the victims of the wars that the world is unable to stop," she said.
The UN refugee agency is asking the US to accept 75,000 refugees from the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere this year.
Trump has previously said that he would send all the Syrian refugees back to Syria if he is elected to the White House.
Trump’s presidential campaign has been marked by controversial statements directed against immigrants, refugees and Muslims.