US vows to help EU allies as the refugee crisis gets worse
The US is vowing to help its European allies with an escalating migrant crisis. In two meetings behind closed doors, US Secretary of State John Kerry plans to brief congressional lawmakers on how many more Syrian refugees the administration is willing to take in.
Mr Kerry was scheduled to meet yesterday with the House and Senate Judiciary Committees. Earlier this week, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, Kerry's predecessor, called for a "concerted global effort" to assist the refugees.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said yesterday that the Obama administration has been looking at a "range of approaches" for assisting US allies as they struggle to accommodate 340,000 people freshly arrived from the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Many are fleeing parts of Iraq and Syria that are under the Isil militant group's control.
While Germany braces for some 800,000 asylum seekers this year, the US hasn't said if it will increase its worldwide quota for resettling refugees from the current 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 wouldn't be able to offer Europe much in the way of quick assistance.
Throughout Syria's four-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.
But what those crises involved - and Syria's may lack - is a sense of US responsibility.