John Kerry said in a statement Sunday that President Obama plans to increase the number of refugees allowed into the United States.

Currently, the United States grants 70,000 refugee visas per year. Under the new plan, 85,000 refugees will be granted access to the US in 2016, up to a grand total of 100,000 in 2017. Officials say that the bulk of those additional refugees will come from Syria, as well as troubled areas in Africa.

More from the New York Times:

“This step is in keeping with America’s best tradition as a land of second chances and a beacon of hope,” Mr. Kerry said, adding that it “will be accompanied by additional financial contributions” for the relief effort.

Four million Syrians have fled to other countries, and hundreds of thousands of others from the Middle East and Africa have been pouring into Europe. Mr. Kerry said the United States would explore ways to increase the overall limit of refugees beyond 100,000, while carrying out background checks to ensure that they are not infiltrated by terrorists.

“We still need to do more, and we understand that,” Mr. Kerry said in a joint news conference with Mr. Steinmeier.

The refugees accepted won’t be randomly selected. The United Nations is currently working to place a list of 18,000 refugees who have formally applied for asylum outside of their native countries. Some human rights advocates say that the 15,000 visa increase doesn’t do enough to address the growing crisis, but Secretary Kerry said in his statement that the US is limiting the increase due to the continued need for screenings and security checks. The Administration doesn’t need congressional approval to increase the number of visas granted, but Congress will have to appropriate funds to help cover the expanded program.

Look for lawmakers to press the Administration for answers on the specifics:

U.S. lawmakers immediately expressed concerns about the potential influx.

The Islamic State group and other terrorist organizations “have made it abundantly clear that they will use the refugee crisis to try to enter the United States. Now the Obama administration wants to bring in an additional 10,000 Syrians without a concrete and foolproof plan to ensure that terrorists won’t be able to enter the country,” said U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.

“The administration has essentially given the American people a ‘trust me.’ That isn’t good enough,” according to a statement from the lawmakers, who head the congressional judiciary committees.

Meanwhile, Hungarian officials are reporting “extraordinary situations” in Hungary and Serbia, two countries currently playing host to the massive influx of Middle Eastern migrants and asylum-seekers.

southeastern europe map september 2015

Yesterday, officials reopened the main border crossing station between Serbia and Hungary; last week’s closure prompted migrants to flow through Croatia and into Slovenia, but did not stem the overall influx of people attempting to gain access to Austria and then Germany. Things are still chaotic in Greece, as migrants brave deadly water crossing to reach the Eurozone:

The bodies of at least 14 refugees were recovered and another 24 refugees are missing in separate incidents in the Aegean Sea on Sunday.

At least 13 people — including 5 children and an infant — died when their boat heading to Greece collided with a cargo vessel in the Aegean Sea off the coast of western Turkey, according to a statement released on Sunday from the Turkish coast guard and Turkish state media.

Many of these passengers were believed to be Syrian, the Turkish coast guard said. Eight of the passengers were rescued and taken to hospital in Turkey. The coast guard dispatched a helicopter, five intervention boats and a search-and-rescue ship to try to save people involved in the incident.

In a separate but nearby incident, the Greek coast guard continues to search for up to 24 refugees who went missing when their boat sank off the eastern Aegean island of Lesbos, a Greek coast guard press officer told CNN.

The refugees were spotted by a coast guard helicopter earlier on Sunday and a vessel was dispatched to the area. The Greek coast guard said 48 refugees were aboard the boat when it left Turkey, 24 of whom were rescued. The body of a little girl was recovered but the Greek coast guard was not able to confirm if she was on the same boat or if she drowned in a separate incident.

The European Union is still debating a long term solution to the migrant crisis.


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