The Obama administration is moving to increase and accelerate the number of Syrian refugees who might be admitted into the United States by opening new screening outposts in Iraq and Lebanon, administration officials told Reuters on Friday.
The move comes after President Barack Obama pledged in September to admit an additional 10,000 refugees in 2016 from Syria, torn by four years of civil war and disorder.
The U.S. State Department confirmed the plans to open a refugee settlement processing center in Erbil, Iraq, before the end of 2015, and to resume refugee processing in Lebanon in early 2016, said spokeswoman Danna Van Brandt.
The White House would not say how many additional refugees it may take in beyond the 10,000, but two senior administration officials said they are seeking ways to increase the number.
"We want to be in a place where we can push out really ambitious goals," said one of the officials, who spoke to Reuters on the condition of anonymity.
The State Department runs nine screening centers worldwide that serve as meeting points for refugees and U.S. Department of Homeland Security employees who have to decide who is suitable for resettlement in the United States.
The additional centers will double the number available to refugees in the Middle East. Most Syrians are now screened for potential U.S. resettlement at centers in Istanbul and Amman, Jordan.
The new centers are designed to "increase the channels" the United States has for reaching Syrian refugees, the official said.
Homeland Security workers stopped traveling to Lebanon to meet with refugees when the facility there closed over a year ago due to security concerns.
That closure sparked outrage among refugee advocates who say Lebanon holds the largest number of Syrian refugees, most of whom live in poverty because it is illegal for them to work.
Lebanon announced last month, however, that it would no longer accept Syrian refugees except in special cases.
Amid a tide of refugees in Europe, some congressional Democrats and refugee advocates say the United States should do more for Syrians who often make dangerous journeys to lands where they have no home or means of employment.
Some Republicans have raised concerns that allowing more Syrians into the United States jeopardizes national security.
"We have little or no information about who these people are ... no ability to determine whether they are radicalized," Republican Senator Jeff Sessions said at a hearing on Oct. 2.
Another senior administration official told Reuters that the United States is also encouraging other countries to contribute more money to the United Nations' effort to help refugees.
The administration is also looking to increase aid to Syria's border countries of Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey as they take in millions fleeing the war, the official said.
General migrant crisis - Syrian refugees, entering all European countries
Exclusive: U.S. to open new screening centers for Syrian refugees - State Department
Migrant and refugee children lie on the ground during a demonstration to protest against Turkish police blocking the access to the road and the ticket office for the Turkey-Greece border towns on September 15, 2015 at Istanbul's Esenler Bus Terminal. Over half a million migrants have crossed the European Union's border so far this year, up from 280,000 in 2014, the bloc's Frontex border agency said on September 15, 2015 -- but warned some people may have been counted twice. AFP PHOTO / YASIN AKGUL (Photo credit should read YASIN AKGUL/AFP/Getty Images)
ROSZKE, HUNGARY - SEPTEMBER 13: A young boy wraps up to keep warm as migrants wake up to a cold morning at the Hungarian border with Serbia on September 13, 2015 in Roszke, Hungary. A record number of 4,000 people crossed the Hungarian border with Serbia yesterday. Migrants are rushing to the border due to fears that the borders will soon close before the official closure of midnight on Monday, September 14th. Since the beginning of 2015 the number of migrants using the so-called 'Balkans route' has exploded with migrants arriving in Greece from Turkey and then travelling on through Macedonia and Serbia before entering the EU via Hungary. The number of people leaving their homes in war torn countries such as Syria, marks the largest migration of people since World War II. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 28: (TURKEY OUT) Kurdish refugee children from the Syrian town of Kobani look on near makeshift tents in a camp in the southeastern town of Suruc, Sanliurfa province October 28, 2014. Kurdish fighters, supported by US-led air strikes, have fended off the Islamic State militants offensive into the besieged Syrian border town of Kobani for the last 44 days but remain ill equipped and short on ammunition. (Photo by Kutluhan Cucel/Getty Images)
ALEPPO, SYRIA - JULY 02: Mother of Syrian child refugee 8-year-old Ahmet Kedru, with partial thickness burns on the face, Aisha Kedru weeps as her son demands support for an aesthetic surgery from Turkish doctors to return to the old days on July 02, 2015 in Aleppo's district Azaz. When Ahmet and his family members were inside of a tent that they take shelter in at Azaz district, the tent is burned out. Fire damaged both him and his mother. (Photo by Kerem Kocalar/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Syrian refugees wait for transportation after crossing into Turkey from the Syrian town of Tal Abyad, near Akcakale in Sanliurfa province, on June 10, 2015. Thousands of people crossed from Syria into Turkey on June 10 to flee a battle pitting Islamist insurgents against Kurdish and opposition forces for the Syrian border town of Tel Abyad. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
SANLIURFA, TURKEY - JUNE 06: A Turkish soldier carries a Syrian girl as she crosses into Turkey with her family from the borderline in Akcakale district of Sanliurfa on June 06, 2015. Hundreds of Syrians who fled from Syria after clashes between Syrian government forces and opponents in Rasulayn region of Al-Hasakah, have crossed into Turkey since Wednesday. (Photo by Halil Fidan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A Syrian refugee woman sits as a child sleeps near her early in the morning on Taksim Square, Istanbul, on May 26, 2015. Britain's David Cameron and Russia's Vladimir Putin have agreed to re-start talks on finding a solution to the crisis in Syria, a statement from Cameron said on May 25. AFP PHOTO/BULENT KILIC (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)
A Syrian Kurdish boy peers as children take lessons on November 10, 2014 in a makeshift school tent in a refugee camp in the town of Suruc, Sanliurfa province. Turkey's maintained an 'open door' policy for all those fleeing Syria's civil war and there are now over 1.5 million Syrian refugees living in the country. More than 280,000 Syrian refugees are living in refugee camps, mostly in the southeast, according Turkey's Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD). AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINI (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Kurdish people watch the Syrian town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, from the Turkish border in the southeastern village of Mursitpinar, Sanliurfa province, on October 18, 2014. Turkey is turning a deaf ear to insistent pressure to take a more pro-active stance in the fight against Islamic State (IS) jihadists, adding to existing strains with the West under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Western diplomats have repeatedly made clear they want to see the key NATO member play a key role in the coalition against the militants, who are battling for the Syrian town Kobane just a few kilometers from Turkey. AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINIS (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
A child cries as Syrian Kurdish people arrive after crossing the border between Syria and Turkey after several mortars hit both side in the southeastern town of Suruc, in the Sanliurfa province on September 29, 2014. Tens of thousands of Syrian Kurds flooded into Turkey fleeing an onslaught by the Islamic State (IS) group that prompted an appeal for international intervention. Some of the refugee now want to return to protect their homes and join the fight against IS militants. AFP PHOTO/BULENT KILIC (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)