Exclusive: Senior State Dept. refugee official sidelined - sources

From Reuters - January 9, 2018

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. official who has been a defender of refugees has been sidelined within the State Department in what some advocates and former officials fear is part of the Trump administrations goal of limiting refugee resettlement in the United States.

Lawrence Bartlett, head of refugee admissions at the State Departments Population, Refugees and Migration bureau, is now on a temporary assignment at another office, a State Department spokeswoman said.

Bartletts future leadership of the refugee office has been in doubt for months. He is now a temporary senior adviser at the State Department office that handles requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Sending a civil servant of his experience and rank to that office is unusual, according to current and former U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

A current official described such a re-assignment as a form of internal exile like being sent to Siberia.

The FOIA office was always the punch line of a joke around here, as in: Theyll send me to the FOIA office,' the official said.

Bartletts reassignment is the latest signthatthe way the United States resettles refugees is being reshaped by the Trump administration, which is determined to restrict refugee admissions, advocates said.


Since taking office last January, President Donald Trump has slashed the number of refugees allowed into the country, paused the refugee program entirely for four months, instituted stricter vetting requirements, and quit negotiations on a voluntary pact to deal with global migration.

A State Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the reason for Bartletts new temporary assignment, but she said access to information, including FOIA requests, is a high priority of the Department of State to promote transparency.

She declined to say who will fill the position in his absence and whether he would eventually return to his refugee position.

It is too early to know what ultimate effect Bartletts re-assignment will have on the refugee program or on the State Departments role in internal debates on its future.

Bartlett did not respond to a range of questions about his new role, but did say he has not been told the assignment is permanent.


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