U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced Sunday that the U.S. will accept 85,000 refugees from around the world next year—up from 70,000—and the number will rise to 100,000 in 2017.
Many, though not all, of the additional refugees would be Syrian, American officials have said. The United States has taken in just 1,500 refugees since the start of the Syrian war in 2011, and President Barack Obama last week committed to accepting 10,000 more over the coming year.
The New York Times reports:
Still, the steps that Mr. Kerry announced are much less than that some former American officials and refugee experts have recommended.
Last Thursday, more than 20 former senior officials, including some who served in the State Department and Pentagon during the Obama administration, urged the White House to accept 100,000 Syrian refugees.
“We urge that you announce support for a refugees admissions goal of 100,000 Syrian refugees on an extraordinary basis, over and above the current worldwide refugee ceiling of 70,000,” they wrote in a letter to President Obama and congressional leaders. “With some four million Syrian refugees in neighboring countries and hundreds of thousands of Syrian asylum seekers in Europe, this would be a responsible exercise in burden sharing.”
That letter also called on the U.S. to put in place special rules to speed the resettlement process.
As NBC News explains:
U.S. officials have recognized the process for admitting Syrian refugees can take up to 18 months, largely because of vetting to make sure they do not pose a security threat.
Refugee applications referred to the United States by the U.N. refugee agency undergo multiple security checks by several federal agencies.
"[W]e can make a home for many, many refugees in the United States. I'm convinced of it," Anne Richard, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for population, refugees, and migration, told NPR on Saturday. "But the tricky part is running a process that scrutinizes the backgrounds of the refugees before they come here to make sure we're bringing people who are legitimate refugees and who do not pose any kind of security threat to the United States."
A separate letter sent Friday from a coalition of U.S. faith-based and civil society groups to President Obama called for increasing the refugee resettlement cap to 200,000 for the upcoming fiscal year, including 100,000 Syrians.
According to ABC News, "Kerry did not address why the U.S. 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."
Meanwhile, the refugee crisis only worsens, creating a devastating new reality marked for too many by terror, violence, and injustice.
The Guardian reported Sunday on one group of refugees, numbering in the hundreds, who "fear they are to be deported back to Syria after their boat was intercepted by the Turkish coastguard."
One female among the crowd, detained at a refugee center and not identified for her protection, said she feared being killed if this happened. "They are threatening us that Syrians will be deported to Syria, Iraqis to Iraq,” she said. “If they send us back to Syria we will die."