The White House unveiled plans to increase refugee admissions to 110,000 next year amid a fraught US debate over the appropriate numbers to take in.
Ahead of a summit on the global refugee crisis at the United Nations next week, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said a goal has been set of admitting about 30 percent more refugees in the coming fiscal year.
The administration’s target for fiscal year 2017 is 110,000 refugees, up from the 85,000 goal in 2016 and 70,000 in 2015.
That would include about 40,000 people from the Near East and South Asia – a vast region that includes Syria.
Nearly five million Syrians have fled their country since war broke out in 2011, and the United States has committed to resettling 10,000 Syrians this year, an issue that has inflamed the 2016 presidential election race.
While offering the prospect of accepting more refugees, the White House was talking tough about security.
“It’s important for people to remember that individuals who are admitted to the United States under this program have to undergo more rigorous screening and vetting than any other individual that enters the United States,” Earnest said.
“The president places our national security at the top of his priority list. And that certainly is true with regard to considering the admission of refugees to the United States.”
The United Nations on 19 September will host the first summit on refugees and migrants, which will be followed the next day by a pledging conference for new offers of aid to refugees hosted by Obama.
Much like the US, some European heads of state, including Angela Merkel, said their countries would welcome some refugees from Syria.
Backing the idea of a quota system for taking in migrants, the German leader said “everyone must do their part,” and that “a common solution must be found,” during a TV interview in August.
In 2015, Germany took in about a million asylum seekers, most from Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan, and this year it expects as many as 300,000 more to arrive, the Federal Office for Migrants and Refugees (BAMF) said on Sunday.
“We can ensure optimal services for up to 300,000. Should more people arrive, it would put us under pressure, then we would go into so-called crisis mode. But even then we would not have conditions like last year,” BAMF chief Frank-Juergen Weise told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper
Weise told the newspaper that Germany’s healthy economy and improvements to refugee services over the last year meant that the country was well-placed to absorb new arrivals, particularly as their numbers have dropped off.
“We are preparing for between 250,000 and 300,000 refugees this year,” he said.
Almost 1.1 million asylum seekers arrived in Germany, Europe’s top economic power, last year, putting enormous strain on the country’s bureaucracy to process claims and testing confidence in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition government.
The closure of the so-called Balkan migrant route and a controversial EU deal with Turkey to keep migrants from reaching Greece – a main entry point into the bloc – has held down arrivals from the Middle East and Afghanistan.
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