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State Dept. Official Wants ‘Steep’ Increase in Syrian Refugees Admitted to U.S.

A State Department refugee official said on Saturday that U.S. leaders are committed to bringing more Syrian refugees to the United States and that she would like to see a steep increase in their numbers in 2017.

Anne Richard, assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration, told National Public Radio the Obama administration would like to see the refugee process move more quickly and is trying to streamline the vetting process without cutting corners on security.

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The United States has taken in 1,500 refugees since the start of the Syrian war in 2011, and President Barack Obama last week committed to accepting 10,000 more over the coming year.

Four million refugees have fled the four-year-old civil war in Syria into neighboring Middle Eastern countries and are spilling into Europe in what has become the continent's worst refugee crisis since World War Two.

"I think that the most senior leadership at the State Department, the National Security Council and the White House want to bring more refugees and so that's something that we're very focused on right now," Richard told NPR.

"Well, next year the president has said we will bring 10,000. So the year after that I'd like to see a steep ramp up," she said.

A number of U.S. lawmakers and humanitarian groups have asked Obama to bring in 65,000 to 100,000 Syrian refugees.

U.S. officials have recognized the process for admitting Syrian refugees can take up to 18 months, largely because of vetting to make sure they do not pose a security threat.

Refugee applications referred to the United States by the U.N. refugee agency undergo multiple security checks by several federal agencies.

Richard said U.S. authorities were looking for ways to streamline the process. "We can make a home for many, many refugees in the United States — I'm convinced of it," Richard said.