US to increase refugee intake next year

While European countries struggle to cope with waves of people fleeing conflict in Middle East and Africa, Secretary of State John Kerry says US is “committed” to lifting refugee intake

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Sep 10, 2015

Secretary of State John Kerry has said the United States plans to raise the number of refugees it takes in by 5,000 next year to 75,000, including an unspecified number from Syria, senior US officials said on Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday morning after a meeting on Capitol Hill, Kerry said the State Department will lift the overall number refugees it aims to resettle in the upcoming financial year.

The department currently resettles 70,000 people from around the globe and was planning on "some sort of a modest increase" next year.

“We are committed to increasing the number of refugees that we take and we are looking hard at the number that we can specifically manage with respect to the crisis in Syria and Europe,” the secretary said, without giving an exact figure.

His words echoed comments a day earlier from White House spokesman Josh Earnest, who said the international community was looking to the US to see what action it would take to address the refugee crisis.

“We’ve already got a strong track record in terms of the contribution that we’ve already made to this response,” Earnest said, “but we’re certainly mindful of the urgency around increasing the resources and response that’s necessary to confront this significant challenge.”

Refugee advocates have called for the current overall target to be lifted to 200,000 – with 65,000 of those refugees from Syria alone to be resettled by the end of 2015.

"When we talk about increasing overall numbers, we're talking about increases for people from around the world," the official said, adding: "In addition to bringing in more Syrians, which is the plan, we would like to admit more African refugees next year." The official spoke on condition of anonymity.

European countries have taken in waves of migrants fleeing violence, and Germany allowed 20,000 in over the weekend and is preparing for 800,000 this year.

"My sense is that Europeans are so focused right now on this on a day-to-day basis that they're not really looking to us yet to help them, but we are thinking about what we can do to be helpful," said the senior State Department official.

TRTWorld and agencies