As Syria undergoes a mass population exodus, conversations about refugee status for those leaving the country almost inevitably include an association with increased global threats around terrorism. In addressing the concern, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has underscored its safety protocols with the publication of a fact sheet about refugee screening.
While screening processes applies to all refugees, USCIS specifically addresses Syrians who seek refugee status. “Officers conducting interviews of Syrian applicants now undergo an expanded one-week training focusing on Syria-specific topics, including a classified intelligence briefing,” according to USCIS. “During the interview, the officer develops lines of questioning to elicit information regarding any involvement in terrorist activity, criminal activity or the persecution/torture of others, and conducts a credibility assessment on each applicant.”
The U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) is the cornerstone agency for immigrants seeking refugee status in the United States.USRAP is made up of governmental and non-governmental partners, both domestic and international. USRAP policy calls for both biometric and biographic screening checks at multiple stages throughout the process, “including immediately before a refugee’s departure to the United States as well as upon arrival in the U.S.”
Still, one of the most fundamental tools officials use in the review of refugee applications goes back to USCIS-officer screening. Describing assigned officers as “highly trained,” the extensive interviews of refugee applicants is intended to “elicit information about admissibility and claim for refugee status.
“These officers have undergone specialized and extensive training on refugee law, grounds of inadmissibility, fraud detection and prevention, security protocols, interviewing techniques, credibility analysis, and country conditions research,” according to a USCIS page.
Additionally, when USCIS officers deploy overseas to perform screening processing, they receive further training on the specific populations seeking refugee status. This additional training includes detailed information on specific countries of origin as well as information on trends around fraud and security issues. Before deploying overseas, officers also receive additional training on the specific population that they will be interviewing, detailed country of origin information, and updates on any fraud trends or security issues that have been identified.