US agrees to take 15,000 more refugees next year as the pressure grows on Obama
The United States will take in 15,000 more refugees from around the world next year, increasing the current level to 85,000, and to 100,000 in 2017, US Secretary of State John Kerry said yesterday.
The remarks may show an increasing willingness of the US to help cope with the mass migration of Syrians, although the offer is modest when compared with the hundreds of thousands that are moving to Europe and in particular, Germany.
Mr Kerry did not say how many of the additional refugees would be from Syria but pledged that the US was ready to help.
"In consultation with Congress, we will continue to explore ways to increase those figures while maintaining robust security," Mr Kerry said in Berlin after meeting German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
"The need is enormous, but we are determined to answer the call."
Mr Kerry also announced he would hold talks on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York this week on ways to restart negotiations on a political solution to end Syria's war.
"We have agreed on certain formats and processes by which we should try and proceed," he said, adding that he would meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to discuss Syria.
"This will be a very timely meeting in New York and will give us a tremendous opportunity to be able to work together and find some ways forward."
Mr Kerry's comments on refugees address calls on US President Barack Obama to help more in the crisis. Mr Obama has said the US will accept at least 10,000 Syrians over the coming year displaced by the four-year-old civil war.
He said the US would like to take in more refugees in the coming year but needed additional funding from Congress to hire more people to process the refugees.
"We are doing what we know we can manage immediately," said the president. "As soon as we have the opportunity to try to up that, we will welcome more people in these kinds of circumstances."
Aid groups, meanwhile, have been critical of plans to allow in only 10,000 Syrians, given the large size of the American economy and population. They have called for 10 times as many to be admitted.