US to accept more refugees

2015-09-20 18:59
John Kerry (AP)

John Kerry (AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Berlin - Trying to address the Syrian refugee crisis, US Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Sunday that the United States would significantly increase the number of worldwide refugees it takes in over the next two years, though not by nearly the number many activists and former officials have urged.

The US will accept 85 000 refugees from around the world next year, up from 70 000, and that total would rise to 100 000 in 2017, Kerry said at news conference with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier after the two discussed the mass migration of Syrians fleeing their civil war.

Many, though not all, of the additional refugees would be Syrian, American officials have said. Others would come from strife-torn areas of Africa. The White House had previously announced it intended to take in 10 000 additional Syrian refugees over the next year.

Asked why the US couldn't take more, Kerry cited post-September 11 screening requirements and a lack of money made available by Congress. "We're doing what we know we can manage immediately," he said.

The migrants would be referred by the UN refugee agency, screened by the US Department of Homeland Security and resettled around the US.

"This step is in keeping with America's best tradition as a land of second chances and a beacon of hope," Kerry said. Kerry also met with some refugee families on the wooded, lakeside resort-style campus of the foreign ministry's education centre outside Berlin.

Congressional approval is not required for the expansion of resettlement slots, though Congress would have to appropriate money to pay for the additional effort. Some Republican lawmakers have expressed concerns that Islamic State militants could seek to slip into Europe or the US posing as migrants.


In 2011, two Kentucky residents who had been resettled as Iraqi refugees were accused of being al-Qaeda members. They were convicted of terrorism charges after their fingerprints were linked to roadside bombs in Iraq. That led to a cumbersome reinvestigation process and new steps to screen refugees, a process that has been criticized as slow and bureaucratic.

"Some of the 65 000 that came from Iraq actually were trying to buy stinger missiles in my home town in Kentucky," said US Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, a Republican presidential candidate, in a broadcast interview. "So we do have to be weary of some of the threat that comes from mass migration."

Even if the US took in 30 000 Syrians over the next two years - an unlikely outcome, given that only 1 500 have been admitted since the start of the war - that number would pale in comparison to the hundreds of thousands that Germany is expected to accept, or the 800 000 Vietnamese that the US resettled in the years after the Vietnam war.

A letter made public last week and signed by several former Obama administration officials urged the US government to accept 100 000 Syrian migrants, and to put in place special rules to speed the resettlement process.

In Washington, Democratic presidential candidate and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton said in a television interview that the US "has to do more and I would like to see us move from what is a good start with 10 000 to 65 000 and begin immediately to put into place the mechanisms for vetting the people we would take in, looking to really emphasis some of those who are most vulnerable".

Conditions in Syria have been growing increasingly dire as the civil war grinds on, and as many as 9 million people have been displaced, including more than 4 million who have fled the country, according to the United Nations.

"Current efforts are not adequate," according to the letter, signed by Michelle Flournoy, a former senior US defence official who once was Obama's choice for Pentagon chief, and Harold Koh, the former State Department legal adviser. "Humanitarian aid has fallen short in the face of unspeakable suffering."

A US acceptance of 100 000 Syrians, the letter said, "would send a powerful signal to governments in Europe and the Middle East about their obligation to do more".

Kerry did not address why the US proposal is well short of what the former officials advocated, but in London on Saturday, he said the migrant crisis must be solved by ending Syria's civil war and replacing President Bashar Assad.

Kerry on made clear on Saturday the US was willing to negotiate the terms of Assad's exit with Russia, which is backing his government with a recent military build-up. The Russians brought in fighter jets and surface to air missiles that could threaten American plans, much to the dismay of American officials.

Critics have accused the Obama administration of passivity in the face of Russian aggression.

After holding out hope on Saturday that Russia could help the US fight the Islamic State, Kerry took a somewhat tougher line on Sunday, saying that he and the German foreign minister agreed that "support for the [Syrian] regime by Russia, or by any other country, risks exacerbating the conflict and only hinders future co-operation toward a successful transition".

Read more on:    john kerry  |  us  |  germany  |  migrants

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24


WATCH: Man films himself going down water slide upside down as things go very wrong…

What is at first an exciting tummy-turning adventure stunt, quickly turns into a scarily bad idea caught on camera. Take a look:


You won't want to miss...

Best date night restaurants in South Africa
WATCH: Ryan Reynolds offers fans a free tattoo in new Deadpool 2 teaser
Should you date your co-worker?
Hip Cape Town bars to discover this summer
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.