Secretary of State John Kerry announced at a joint press conference in Berlin on Sunday that the U.S. plans to take in up to 85,000 refugees from around the globe in fiscal year (FY) 2016, increasing the limit to 100,000 in FY 2017.
Kerry was joined by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier whose country has already pledged to accept up to 1 million displaced Syrians in 2015.
Humanitarian groups have pressed the Obama administration to take on more displaced migrants now, but according to AP “Kerry cited post-Sept. 11 screening requirements and a lack of money”, as reasons for not allowing more.
Regarding the Syrian situation specifically, the White House announced last week that President Obama has requested resettlement openings in the U.S. for 10,000 Syrians in FY 2016.
According to Reuters, 500,000 people have migrated from the Middle East into southeastern Europe so far in 2015.
House and Senate judiciary committee chairmen Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), issued a joint statement Monday warning against the administration’s refugee plan, saying that “ISIS and other terrorist groups have made it abundantly clear that they will use the refugee crisis to try to enter the United States . . . The administration has essentially given the American people a ‘trust me.’ That isn’t good enough.”
Sec. Kerry defended the administration’s announcement by countering that, “This step is in keeping with America’s best tradition as a land of second chances and a beacon of hope.”
Kerry also explained that Congressional approval is not needed to accept additional refugees, but appropriations delegated by Congress will be required to fund resettlement costs.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton got in on the conversation by saying in a television interview over the weekend that the U.S. “has to do more . . . 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”.
According to the State Department, no such vetting process has taken place thus far.
Sec. Kerry also announced that he will be meeting on the side with Russian and Iranian foreign leaders in conjunction with this week’s UN General Assembly meeting, in an attempt to negotiate an end to the Syrian Civil War.
According to AP, Kerry is looking to negotiate Syrian president Assad’s ouster with Russia. Moscow has recently stepped up military support for the embattled regime, but the U.S. Secretary said that he and the German minister agree that, “support for (Syria’s) regime by Russia . . . risks exacerbating the conflict.”
Agence France-Presse reports Kerry continued the statement by saying that a prolonged Syrian-Russian alliance “risks the possibility of attracting more extremists and entrenching Assad and hinders the way for resolution.”
Sec. Kerry’s refugee announcement comes before a European Union summit on the migrant crisis scheduled to begin on Wednesday.
[AP] [Reuters] [AFP] [Photo courtesy Axel Schmidt/Reuters]