In a private meeting with members of Congress today, Secretary of State John Kerry proposed that the United States admit an additional 5,000 refugees from across the globe next year, a senior State Department official confirmed to ABC News.
That proposal, part of an annual discussion about refugee policy in the United States, would increase the total number of refugees allowed in the country to 75,000 in 2016 from 70,000 this year. Congress ultimately determines the total number, and the discussion comes as North Africa and the Middle East are experiencing a major refugee crisis related in large part to the war in Syria.
The United States has admitted 1,500 Syrian refugees since the start of the four-year conflict and hopes to get to 1,800 by the end of the fiscal year. About 1,300 of those refugees have come since January of this year alone.
“We are committed to increasing the number of refugees that we take and we are looking hard at the number that we can specifically manage with respect to the crisis in Syria and Europe,” Kerry told reporters after meeting with lawmakers today. “That's being vetted right now and at the appropriate time we'll have the exact number.”
Lawmakers and State Department officials alike have noted the security concerns that come with admitting refugees from Syria.
The numbers of those fleeing the conflict are staggering. This year alone, over 322,000 refugees arrived in Europe by sea. Nearly 20,000 arrived in Munich this weekend.
In recent years, the United States has taken in as many as 80,000 refugees from different parts of the world. Many of those refugees were fleeing the Iraq war, a conflict zone in which the United States was more heavily involved than it is in Syria.
Unlike migrants, refugees are recognized by the international community as people who are fleeing armed conflict or persecution.