White House: Obama wants to admit more Syrian refugees

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The United States is making plans to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees in the coming budget year, a significant increase from the 1,500 migrants that have been cleared to resettle in the U.S. since civil war broke out in the Middle Eastern country more than four years ago, the White House said Thursday.

The White House has been under heavy pressure to do more than just provide money to help meet the humanitarian crisis in Europe. Tens of thousands of people from war-torn countries in the Middle East and Africa are risking their lives and dying en masse during desperate attempts to seek safe haven on the continent.

The refugees from Syria, however, would be people who are already in the pipeline and waiting to be let into the United States, not the thousands working their way through eastern Europe and landing in Greece. It was not immediately clear how admitting a larger number of Syrian refugees who are in the processing pipeline would help alleviate the crisis that European countries are grappling with.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said about $4 billion that the administration has provided to relief agencies and others is the most effective way for the U.S. to help shoulder the crisis, but that President Barack Obama has decided that admitting more Syrian refugees in the budget year that begins Oct. 1 would also help boost the U.S. response.

About 17,000 Syrians have been referred over the last few years to the U.S. for resettlement by the U.N. refugee agency. About 1,500 are in the U.S., with another 300 scheduled to be allowed in this month. That leaves about 15,000 Syrians waiting for the clearance process to conclude, according to the State Department.

Obama would like to admit 10,000 of those, according to Earnest's announcement.

Earnest said earlier this week that the administration has been looking at a "range of approaches" for assisting U.S. allies with 340,000 people freshly arrived from the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Many are fleeing parts of Iraq that are under the Islamic State group's control. The 1,500 Syrians who are resettling in the U.S. represent a small percentage of the 11.6 million people who have been chased out of the country or uprooted from their homes due to the civil war in Syria.

Secretary of State John Kerry told lawmakers Wednesday that the U.S. will increase its worldwide quota for resettling refugees by 5,000, from 70,000 to 75,000 next year - and the number could still rise, according to two officials and a congressional aide who requested anonymity to discuss a private meeting.

Kerry said after meeting with Senate Judiciary Committee members that the U.S. would increase the number of refugees it is willing to accept. He did not provide a specific number.

"We are looking hard at the number that we can specifically manage with respect to the crisis in Syria and Europe," he said Wednesday.

Germany is bracing for some 800,000 asylum seekers this year.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, Kerry's predecessor at the State Department, called for an "emergency global gathering" at the U.N. General Assembly meeting this month, where countries could pledge aid money and to accept some of the migrants.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that the U.S. should increase the number of refugees it resettles next year by more than the 5,000 figure to help European countries, saying the figure suggest by Kerry "is far too low." Pelosi, D-Calif., said the U.S. accepted far more refugees after the Vietnam War and could do so again.

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Associated Press writers Bradley Klapper and Matthew Daly contributed to this report.


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White House: Obama wants to admit more Syrian refugees
NICKELSDORF, AUSTRIA - SEPTEMBER 05: Migrants wait for buses to take them onwards into Austria after they crossed the border from Hungary into Austria on September 5, 2015 near Nickelsdorf, Austria. Last night the Hungarian government ordered a fleet of buses to take migrants who had been stranded by the cancellation of international trains at the main Keleti Railway Station and also to collect migrants that had began a walk from Budapest yesterday along the M1 motorway to Austria. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
NICKELSDORF, AUSTRIA - SEPTEMBER 05: Migrants wait for buses to take them onwards into Austria after they crossed the border from Hungary into Austria on September 5, 2015 near Nickelsdorf, Austria. Last night the Hungarian government ordered a fleet of buses to take migrants who had been stranded by the cancellation of international trains at the main Keleti Railway Station and also to collect migrants that had began a walk from Budapest yesterday along the M1 motorway to Austria. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
NICKELSDORF, AUSTRIA - SEPTEMBER 05: Migrants wait for buses to take them onwards into Austria after they crossed the border from Hungary into Austria on September 5, 2015 near Nickelsdorf, Austria. Last night the Hungarian government ordered a fleet of buses to take migrants who had been stranded by the cancellation of international trains at the main Keleti Railway Station and also to collect migrants that had began a walk from Budapest yesterday along the M1 motorway to Austria. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
NICKELSDORF, AUSTRIA - SEPTEMBER 05: Migrants pass as vehicles queue to cross the border from Hungary into Austria on September 5, 2015 near Nickelsdorf, Austria. Last night the Hungarian government ordered a fleet of buses to take migrants who had been stranded by the cancellation of international trains at the main Keleti Railway Station and also to collect migrants that had began a walk from Budapest yesterday along the M1 motorway to Austria. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
NICKELSDORF, AUSTRIA - SEPTEMBER 05: A migrant looks out of the window of a bus that is queuing to cross the border from Hungary into Austria on September 5, 2015 near Nickelsdorf, Austria. Last night the Hungarian government ordered a fleet of buses to take migrants who had been stranded by the cancellation of international trains at the main Keleti Railway Station and also to collect migrants that had began a walk from Budapest yesterday along the M1 motorway to Austria. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
NICKELSDORF, AUSTRIA - SEPTEMBER 05: Migrants take a selfie as they wait for buses to take them onwards into Austria after they crossed the border from Hungary into Austria on September 5, 2015 near Nickelsdorf, Austria. Last night the Hungarian government ordered a fleet of buses to take migrants who had been stranded by the cancellation of international trains at the main Keleti Railway Station and also to collect migrants that had began a walk from Budapest yesterday along the M1 motorway to Austria. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
Migrants arrive on the Hungarian-Austrian border near Nickelsdorf in early hours on September 5, 2015, from where they wish to head to Salzburg on the German-Austrian border. The first bus carrying migrants who have been stranded in the Hungarian capital reached the Austrian border early September 5, after Vienna and Berlin agreed to take in thousands of refugees desperate to start new lives in Western Europe. Some 2,500-3,000 migrants have entered Austria from Hungary in the past few hours, Austrian police said early September 5. AFP PHOTO/JOE KLAMAR (Photo credit should read JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images)
A migrant carries a child on his shoulders upon arrival at the Westbahnhof railroadstation in Vienna, on September 5, 2015 as hundreds of migrants arrive by bus and train from Hungary to continue their journey to Germany. Hungary, which has become one of the newest flashpoints in Europe's migrant crisis, began bussing people who had been stuck in the capital Budapest. AFP PHOTO / DIETER NAGL (Photo credit should read DIETER NAGL/AFP/Getty Images)
Migrants walk on a road to enter Austria in early hours on September 5, 2015 at the village of Nickelsdorf at the Hungarian-Austrian border from where they head to Salzburg on the German-Austrian border. The refugees began arriving at the Austrian border in the night after Hungary, which has become one of the newest flashpoints in Europe's migrant crisis, began bussing people who had been stuck in the capital Budapest. AFP PHOTO / JOE KLAMAR (Photo credit should read JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images)
A migrants carries a child as they arrive at the Hungarian-Austrian border in Nickelsdorf, Austria, Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015, where they came from Budapest as Austria in the early-morning hours said it and Germany would let them in. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
A woman and her children sit as they have boarded a bus provided by Hungarian authorities for migrants and refugees at Keleti train station in Budapest, Hungary, Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015. Hundreds of migrants boarded buses provided by Hungary's government as Austria in the early-morning hours said it and Germany would let them in. Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann announced the decision early Saturday after speaking with Angela Merkel, his German counterpart - not long after Hungary's surprise nighttime move to provide buses for the weary travelers from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Marko Drobnjakovic)
Migrants arrive at the Hungarian-Austrian border in Nickelsdorf, Austria, Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015, where they came from Budapest as Austria in the early-morning hours said it and Germany would let them in. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
A migrant raises his arms after arriving at the border station between Hegyeshalom, Hungary, and Nickelsdorf, Austria, Saturday morning Sept. 5, 2015, as hundreds of migrants came from Budapest as Austria in the early-morning hours said it and Germany would let them in. (AP Photo/Christian Bruna)
A woman with a sleeping child on her lap smiles after arriving at the border station between Hegyeshalom, Hungary, and Nickelsdorf, Austria, Saturday morning Sept. 5, 2015, as hundreds of migrants came from Budapest as Austria in the early-morning hours said it and Germany would let them in. (AP Photo/Christian Bruna)
A boy smiles as migrants arrive at the Hungarian-Austrian border in Nickelsdorf, Austria, Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015, where they came from Budapest as Austria in the early-morning hours said it and Germany would let them in. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Migrants arrive at the Hungarian-Austrian border in Nickelsdorf, Austria, Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015, where they came from Budapest as Austria in the early-morning hours said it and Germany would let them in. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Migrants queue as they arrive in an emergency shelter at the Hungarian-Austrian border in Nickelsdorf, Austria, Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015, where they arrived in buses provided by Hungary's government from Budapest as Austria in the early-morning hours said it and Germany would let them in. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Migrants are on a bus as it stops at a petrol station near Gyoer, Hungary, Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015. Hundreds of migrants, exhausted after breaking away from police and marching for hours toward Western Europe, boarded buses provided by Hungary's government as Austria in the early-morning hours said it and Germany would let them in. Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann announced the decision early Saturday after speaking with Angela Merkel, his German counterpart - not long after Hungary's surprise nighttime move to provide buses for the weary travelers from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
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