U.S. extends protected status for some 7,000 Syrians
The United States has extended a special protected status for Syrians that keeps some 7,000 of them from being deported back to their war-wracked country, the Department of Homeland Security said Wednesday.
President Donald Trump's administration has stripped that same protection from hundreds of thousands of immigrants from several Central American countries, raising fears among Syrians that they might be next.
"After carefully considering conditions on the ground, I have determined that it is necessary to extend the Temporary Protected Status designation for Syria," Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement.
"It is clear that the conditions upon which Syria's designation was based continue to exist, therefore an extension is warranted under the statute," Nielsen said.
The extension lasts through 30 September 2019 and Nielsen will review conditions ahead of that date to determine whether it should be extended again or ended.
The U.S. government has stripped similar protection from some 200,000 Salvadorans, 59,000 Haitians and 5,300 Nicaraguans – some of whom had been in the country for decades.
The Syrian civil war broke out after President Bashar al-Assad's forces carried out a brutal crackdown on protesters in 2011, drawing in countries from around the region as well as the US, Russia and others.
The brutal conflict has killed more than 340,000 people and devastated swathes of the country, pushing millions of people to flee. (AFP)