The United States on Monday announced its decision to not allow more than 30,000 refugees into the country in the coming year, almost a third less than last year’s cap. This marks a historic low since the US Refugee Act was enacted in 1980.

“We propose resettling up to 30,000 refugees under the new refugee ceiling, as well as processing more than 2,80,000 asylum seekers,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the media. “These expansive figures continue the United States’ long-standing record as the most generous nation in the world when it comes to protection-based immigration and assistance.”

The secretary of state said it would be wrong to “characterise the refugee ceiling as the sole barometer of America’s commitment to vulnerable people around the world”.

The Pentagon supported maintaining the previous cap of 45,000 refugees, Reuters reported. It was not immediately clear whether the State Department and the Pentagon had changed their position or if they had failed to persuade the White House.

The International Rescue Committee, an aid organisation that helps refugees around the world, criticised the US government’s decision.

“The United States is not only abdicating humanitarian leadership and responsibility-sharing in response to the worst global displacement and refugee crisis since World War II but compromising critical strategic interests and reneging on commitments to allies and vulnerable populations, including religious minorities and those whose lives are in danger because they assisted US troops and US missions overseas,” the committee said in a statement.

The United States resettled 33,000 refugees in 2017 while Canada admitted 27,000 refugees, Australia took in 15,000 people, and the United Kingdom sheltered 6,000. Canada was the most generous country when it came refugee resettlement if calculated on a per capita basis. This year, the United States is likely to admit only 22,000 refugees, about half the number allowed.