Scrambling to address a growing Syrian refugee crisis, US Secretary of State John Kerry announced today that the US will significantly increase the number of worldwide refugees it takes in over the next two years, though not by nearly the amount 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 will 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-Sept. 11 screening requirements and a lack of money made available by Congress. "We're doing what we know we can manage immediately," he says, adding that the US cannot take shortcuts on security checks. Conditions in Syria have been growing increasingly dire as the civil war grinds on. As many as 9 million people have been displaced, including more than 4 million who have fled the country, according to the United Nations. 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. Click for more on the refugee crisis. (Read more refugees stories.)