President Barack Obama has ordered his administration to begin the preparations necessary to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next fiscal year, which starts this October, a White House spokesman said Thursday.
The number reflects a "significant scaling up" of the US commitment to accept refugees from the war-torn country and to provide for their basic needs, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.
The White House's announcement comes a day after Secretary of State John Kerry said that the US will increase the total number of refugees from around the world that it accepts from 70,000 to 75,000. Speaking to members of Congress in a private meeting yesterday, Kerry did not specify where specifically the refugees would come from, but said that the move to increase the US's quota was an attempt to address the refugee crisis currently overwhelming Europe.
"We are looking hard at the number that we can specifically manage with respect to the crisis in Syria and Europe," Kerry said, according to the Associated Press, before Obama announced his plans for Syrian refugees. "That's being vetted fully right now."
Obama's plan to accept an increased number of Syrian refugees into the US in 2016, however, only apply to the ones already in the process of coming to the US, not the ones headed to Europe.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, a State Department official said that the federal government will be working with both public and private groups, including religious charities, in 300 locations in the US to resettle the refugees. The top three countries that the US accepts refugees from are Burma, Iraq, and Somalia, according to the State Department.
Earnest added that security will be a top concern when considering whom to accept from Syria and how to resettle them in the country. Federal agencies will require increased budgets for staffing to conduct background checks and carry out the extensive screening process. It usually takes between 18 months to two years for the vetting process to be completed, before the refugees can move to the US, according to the State Department.
"I do feel confident in telling you that the president will not sign off on a process that cuts corners when it comes to the basic safety and security of the American people and the US homeland," said Earnest.
The US has only taken 1,400 total Syrian refugees since the civil war began more than four years ago, said the head of the International Rescue Committee, Davie Milibrand, on NBC's Meet the Press earlier this week. The IRC has criticized the US's response to the Syrian refugee crisis as "feeble."
More than 380,000 people have arrived on Europe's shores via sea in 2015 so far, with almost 3,000 missing or dead, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency. A third of them came in August alone.