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Obama plans to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees

September 10, 2015

US President Barack Obama has said the US will admit at least 10,000 refugees from Syria in the next year. His administration has been facing international criticism for not assisting enough in the refugee crisis.

US President Barack Obama
Image: picture-alliance/AP/G. Herbert

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that US President Barack Obama had asked staff to "scale up" the number of refugee admissions from around 1,500 in this fiscal year to 10,000 in the next, beginning on October 1.

"The president has directed his team to consider how we can further scale up our response, and one thing that the United States can do is to begin to admit more Syrian refugees into the United States," spokesman Earnest said.

"He has informed his team that he would like them to make preparations to accept at least 10,000 refugees in the next fiscal year."

He added that the US would also focus on providing for basic humanitarian needs of refugees abroad. With global public audiences shocked by images of drowning refugees, the US appeared to have come under political pressure to act quickly. Human rights groups criticized Obama for not doing more to resettle Syrian refugees.

Only 0.03 percent of Syrian refugees presently in US

The US presently accepts around 70,000 refugees from conflict zones around the world each year, but has been slow in accepting Syrians. Refugees from Syria must undergo strict security checks to weed out extremists, even after being registered by the United Nations. A senior State Department official noted that it presently took 18-24 months to vet asylum-seekers before admitting them.

In the past 12 months, the US resettled nearly 1,300 refugees from Syria. But an estimated four million Syrians have fled during four years of war. With an additional 10,000 Syrians arriving on American shores in the coming fiscal year, the share of Syrian refugees in the US would still remain under one-third of a percent.

The US has kept a low profile on the Syria crisis, ruling out military intervention and only committing to limited aid to refugee camps in the Middle East.

ss/kms (AFP, dpa)