01:52 - Source: CNN
A cold reception: Gulf states shun Syrians

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Secretary of State John Kerry made comments on the Hill at hearing regarding allowing refugees into the country

A steady stream of refugees -- mostly from Syria -- have inundated European countries

CNN —  

Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday that the U.S. will take in more refugees from the crisis in Syria, but stopped short of offering a specific number.

“I believe that the President has made it clear he wants the United States – which has always taken a leadership role with respect to humanitarian issues and particularly refugees – to be able to do what we can,” Kerry told reporters after consultations earlier in the day with senators on the refugee issue.

“We are committed to increasing the number of refugees we take and we are looking hard at the number we can specifically manage with respect to the crisis in Syria and Europe and their migration today,” Kerry said.

Kerry’s meeting is part of an annual discussion the administration has with Congress to set its refugee admissions quota for the next fiscal year.

But while the meeting is routine, it comes at a time when unprecedented international attention is being paid to the issue of refugee resettlement.

More than half the population of Syria has been displaced by the ongoing civil war, and the flow of refugees in the Middle East and Europe has put a strain on countries’ resources and divided local populations.

The U.S. has accepted just over 1,500 refugees from the crisis so far, the vast majority of them in the past year.

The rate of admissions is growing, but the U.S. is limited in how quickly it can resettle refugees because of both admissions quotas and security concerns.

On Tuesday, State Department spokesman John Kirby said the administration’s response to the crisis would need to be balanced against “the proper vetting procedures to make sure that, particularly when we’re bringing in people from that part of the world that we’re doing it safely and securely.”

Congressional Republicans in particular have raised alarm bells for months over the possibility that Syrian extremists – including ISIS sympathizers – could enter country by pretending to be refugees, potentially committing attacks against the homeland.

On Wednesday, Kerry said they are still working to figure out how many additional refugees will be admitted in 2016.

“That’s being vetted fully right now,” Kerry said, “and I think at the appropriate time, we’ll have a better sense of exactly what that number is.”