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Who Are the Refugees Coming Into the United States?


Alpha Saliou Diallo, a refugee from Guinea, holds his daughter, Aisha, after he became a U.S. citizen during a special naturalization ceremony commemorating World Refugee Day at the Delacorte Theater in New York City's Central Park, June 20, 2016.

Alpha Saliou Diallo, a refugee from Guinea, holds his daughter, Aisha, after he became a U.S. citizen during a special naturalization ceremony commemorating World Refugee Day at the Delacorte Theater in New York City's Central Park, June 20, 2016.

The United States, so far in fiscal 2016, has allowed into the country slightly more refugees that self-identify as Muslim than as Christian, according to an analysis of State Department data by the Pew Research Center.

Of the more than 63,000 refugees who have entered the U.S. since the fiscal year began Oct. 1, 2015, nearly 29,000, or 46 percent, say they are Muslim and more than 27,500, or 44 percent, identify as Christian.

More than half of the refugees entering the U.S. by mid-August were from four countries: Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Syria and Iraq. The largest number of refugees from a single country, 10,464, was from Myanmar.

Ethnic minorities

Ethnic minorities in Myanmar, including both Christians and Muslims, face severe persecution in their Buddhist-majority country, which until this April had been under five decades of tightfisted military rule.

De facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a pro-democracy icon who spent two decades under house arrest, has been criticized for failing to adequately address violence against the ethnic Rohingya Muslim minority.

But less than 25 percent, or 2,554, of that country's refugees to the U.S. are Muslim, the Pew analysis found.

The second-largest number of refugees from one country, 10,417, came from the DRC, a majority-Christian country that has suffered from decades of ethnic violence and dozens of armed groups that prey on the local population and exploit mineral reserves.

Just in the past year, hundreds of civilians have died in intercommunal violence and a series of massacres by armed groups in DRC's North Kivu province, which borders Rwanda and Uganda.

Next on the list are 8,569 refugees from Syria and 7,479 from Iraq. These refugees are mostly Muslim, according to the data.

Civil war has raged in Syria for more than five years, with the United Nations estimating more than 400,000 deaths and 13.5 million people in need of aid. Iraq has struggled with ongoing violence from the war and with the rise of the militant group Islamic State.

Most of any year

The 28,957 Muslim refugees admitted to the U.S. so far this fiscal year is the most of any year since the State Department's Refugee Processing Center data on self-reported religious affiliations became publicly available in 2002.

The Pew Research analysis found that, overall, a larger number of Christian refugees than Muslim have entered the U.S. since 2002. During the past 15 years, nearly 390,000 refugees, or 46 percent, have self-identified as Christian, while 269,395, or 32 percent, have self-identified as Muslim.

The Obama administration set a cap of 85,000 refugees last October for the fiscal year, and by mid-August it was about 75 percent of the way toward reaching that goal.

Refugees make up about 10 percent of the roughly 1 million immigrants granted lawful permanent residency in the U.S. each year.

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