Increase of almost a third reflects growing concerns about the world’s refugee crisis as conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan continue
The United States will strive to take in 110,000 refugees from around the world in the coming year, according to a senior Obama administration official, in what would be an almost 30 per cent increase from the 85,000 allowed in during the previous year.
The rise reflects continuing concern about the refugee crisis stemming from Syria’s civil war and conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet it is still far short of what advocacy groups say is needed to address an unprecedented crisis that saw some one million people pour into Europe alone last year.
The official, who wasn’t authorised to discuss the numbers before an official announcement, spoke on condition of anonymity.
Secretary of State John Kerry had previously suggested that the US target would climb to 100,000 in the coming year, but that the figure was a floor, not a ceiling. He briefed lawmakers on the revised figure on Tuesday.
The 110,000 goal covers a 12-month period that starts next month. In the 12 months ending on September 30, the US goal was 85,000, and in the three years before that, the target was 70,000 per year.
The White House has tried to emphasise that the refugee programme is safe and doesn’t pose a major threat to national security. That concern was heightened last year after terrorist attacks in European cities — including some connected to people who had spent time in Syria.
Officials said that potential refugees would continue to be subject to a more rigorous screening process than any other foreigners granted entrance to the US
The announcement comes two weeks after the US announced it had met President Barack Obama’s goal of admitting 10,000 Syrian refugees despite early scepticism about reaching its goal. Millions of Syrians have been displaced by a civil war that has killed roughly half a million people.
Republican governors have pushed back vehemently and tried to refuse to let them into their states, leading to a clash with the administration, which has maintained that states can’t legally bar refugees who otherwise meet the criteria.
The administration did not release a breakdown of how many refugees would be accepted from specific countries in the coming year.
The US has tried to encourage other countries, too, to increase their contribution to alleviating the refugee crisis. The official said increasing the US target this year reflected that strategy and Mr Obama’s belief that all nations need to do more to help the neediest.
As part of that effort, Mr Obama plans to host a summit on refugee issues with world leaders next week during the United Nations General Assembly gathering in New York.
The UN refugee agency chief, Filippo Grandi, said on Tuesday that Europe needed to boost its efforts to take in people from places such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. In an Associated Press interview, he called it “one of the great challenges” of the future.
“There’s a time now to have this rational discussion,” he said.
Tags: Afghanistan!, asylum-seekers, Iraq, Islamic state, migrants, Obama, Radical Islamic terrorists, refugees, screening process, Secretary of State John Kerry, Syria, Syrians, terrorism, UN Refugee Agency, United Nations