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May 28, 2018

Top US diplomat for refugees resigns, 'move unrelated to Trump policies'

US president Donald Trump attends a signing ceremony for the Interdict Act into law,in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, January 10, 2018. /Reuters
US president Donald Trump attends a signing ceremony for the Interdict Act into law,in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, January 10, 2018. /Reuters

The US diplomat in charge of refugee issues plans to leave his post within days, becoming the third senior US official to depart or be re-assigned from refugee work in recent weeks.

Simon Henshaw, the acting assistant secretary of the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, told colleagues in the refugee sector in an e-mail seen by Reuters that he will be leaving the bureau at the end of next week.

In an interview on Saturday evening, Henshaw told Reuters he was leaving his position in a routine professional move unrelated to the Trump administration's policies, which have curtailed refugee admissions. A State Department spokeswoman also said Henshaw's move was routine.

Henshaw said his post at the Population, Refugees and Migration bureau had been his longest assignment in his 33-year tenure as a career foreign service officer.

"It very honestly had to do with the fact that I'd felt I'd spent enough time," Henshaw told Reuters. "I'm used to moving on every two or three years."

Prior to being named acting assistant secretary at the start of the Trump administration, he served as the principal deputy assistant secretary since July 2013.

The bureau will be run from January 22 onward by Carol O'Connell, the deputy assistant secretary of state for African affairs, according to her State Department biography.

"In a world where the number of refugees and displaced persons continues to rise, I think we should all be proud (of) the good that we have done and the help that we have provided to so many," Henshaw wrote in the Saturday e-mail.

Henshaw is the latest senior US official working on refugee issues to leave a job or be sidelined as the Trump administration reshapes US refugee admissions.

Since taking office last year, 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.

On Tuesday, Reuters reported that Lawrence Bartlett, previously the head of the refugee admissions office at the State Department, had been given a temporary re-assignment in the State Department office handling Freedom of Information Act requests.

Earlier this month, Barbara Strack, chief of the Refugee Affairs Division at US Citizenship and Immigration Services, under the Department of Homeland Security, said she would retire in January.

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