US committed to accepting more refugees, says John Kerry
Published 09/09/2015 | 17:49
The United States is committed to increasing the number of refugees it is willing to take, according to US Secretary of State John Kerry.
Following closed-door congressional meetings, Mr Kerry said President Barack Obama has made it clear that the US wants to take a leadership role on humanitarian issues.
"We are looking hard at the number that we can specifically manage with respect to the crisis in Syria and Europe," he said. "That's being vetted fully right now."
Mr Kerry met with members of the House and Senate Judiciary committees. He did not give any specifics on the number of additional refugees the US may be willing to take.
The US has vowed to help its European allies with the escalating migrant crisis. Earlier this week, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called for a "concerted global effort" to assist the refugees.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the Obama administration has been looking at a "range of approaches" for assisting US allies with 340,000 new arrivals from the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Many are fleeing parts of Iraq that are under the Islamic State group's control.
While Germany braces for some 800,000 asylum seekers this year, the US has not said if it will increase its worldwide quota for resettling refugees from 70,000. Only a fraction of those would be Syrians, who must first navigate a multi-year application process before learning if they can start a new life in the United States. Mr Kerry's briefings will also canvass migrant exoduses from Central America and elsewhere.
The US resettlement process for refugees, as it stands, is slow. They can wait around three years to find out if they can move to the United States, meaning Washington would not be able to offer Europe much in quick assistance.
Throughout Syria's four-and-a-half-year civil war, the US has accepted only about 1,500 Syrians - a tiny percentage of the 11.6 million people who have been chased out of the country or uprooted from their homes.
After the fall of Saigon in 1975, the US accepted more than a million refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. In 1999, tens of thousands of mostly Muslim Kosovar Albanians were flown to the US, processed at a military post and ultimately resettled. During the Iraq war, more than 50,000 refugees were allowed to come under a special, expedited programme for people whose religious beliefs or past work for the US military put their lives at risk.
Asked directly if the Obama administration felt responsible to share Europe's refugee burden, Mr Earnest stressed US support so far of 4 billion US dollars in humanitarian aid, more than any other country has provided, and ongoing diplomatic work to resolve Syria's conflict peacefully.