Number of Christian refugees surpassed Muslims in first five months of Trump presidency

(Reuters/Muhammad Hamed)Syrian refugee children play as they wait with their families to register their information at the U.S. processing centre for Syrian refugees, during a media tour held by the U.S. Embassy in Jordan, in Amman, Jordan, April 6, 2016.

The number of Christian refugees admitted to the U.S. has surpassed Muslims during the first five months of Donald Trump's presidency, according to an analysis of U.S. State Department refugee data.

The report, released by Pew Research Center on Wednesday, noted that Christians made up 50 percent of all refugee arrivals between Jan. 21 and June 30. Thirty-eight percent were Muslims, while 11 percent belonged to other religions. About one percent said they were religiously unaffiliated.

A total of 9,598 refugees admitted to the U.S. between that period were Christians, while 7,250 were Muslims.

The latest figures have been seen as a reversal of a trend that saw more Muslims entering the U.S. under President Barack Obama.

Huffington Post reported that 38,901 Muslim refugees came to the U.S. in fiscal 2016, compared to 37,521 Christian refugees.

The new monthly figures also showed a steady decline for Muslims, from about 50 percent of refugees in February down to 31 percent in June. Christian refugees, on the other hand, increased from 41 percent in February to 57 percent in June.

"As whole, we look at fiscal 2017 since October, and Muslims and Christians are about the same number," said Phillip Connor, a co-writer of the report, according to Religion News Service. "But seeing the shift month to month was somewhat surprising. ... It is a growing increase. It's not just that there was an immediate shift," he added.

According to Pew, the religious affiliation of refugees came under scrutiny after Trump issued an executive order restricting admittance of travelers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The order also put a temporary halt to the U.S. Refugee Resettlement program and lowers the cap on refugee admissions to 50,000 people annually.

While the executive order has been held up by legal challenges, the U.S. Supreme Court recently allowed some parts of the second version of the order to take effect until the case is heard sometime this fall.

The report noted that it is unclear why the composition of refugees changed since February, as the revised order states no religious preference for refugee admissions.

The number of refugees admitted to the U.S. in fiscal 2017 is expected to fall below the 85,000-person ceiling established by the Obama administration for fiscal 2016, when there were 84,995 refugee arrivals.

As of June 30, the U.S. had already admitted 49,225 refugees, but the Supreme Court ruled that those with close family members in the U.S. may continue to enter the country even after the new cap is reached.

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