US expects to surpass Syrian refugee admissions target

FILE - In this Sunday, June. 12, 2016 file photo provided by the Syrian Civil Defence White Helmets, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows Civil Defense workers and Syrian citizens inspect damage buildings after airstrikes hit a market area in Idlib, Syria. The Syrian volunteer search-and-rescue group has launched a campaign to win its first responders the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize. The Syrian Civil Defense, also known as the White Helmets, operate in the country's war-ravaged opposition areas, where they are exposed daily to bombs dropped by government and Russian warplanes. The group's global following say their task is "the most dangerous job on the planet." (Syrian Civil Defence White Helmets via AP, File)


(CNN) — The Obama administration expects to mark a major milestone in the coming weeks, admitting more than 10,000 Syrian refugees into the US within 2016 Fiscal Year, a State Department official told CNN Friday.

The official said the administration can — and likely will — accept more than 10,000 applicants, as the goal is “a floor, not a ceiling,” and admissions are expected to continue at their current pace for the remaining six weeks.

The US has admitted 9,098 Syrians into the country as refugees since October 1, 2015, when the goal went into effect, and 10,981 since the conflict began, according to State Department data.

The President will begin consultations with Congress next month to determine how many refugees will be admitted in the 2017 Fiscal Year. He has not yet set those allocations, according to the official.

President Barack Obama set the goal last fall, as the migrant crisis in Europe and the Middle East was hitting critical mass last summer, and leaders in the international community were calling on the US and other world powers to do more to help the growing displaced population.

Initially, there were concerns about the administration’s ability to meet the new target.

The US had only admitted about 1,900 refugees in the first four years of the conflict, and was facing a backlog of UN case referrals.

But admissions spiked dramatically starting in May, after the US beefed up staffing at key processing locations in Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt, accelerating the security vetting and interview process for applicants.

While meeting the target is likely to be touted as a major achievement for the administration, not everyone is happy about the accomplishment.

Critics of the resettlement program — including Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump — have long expressed concern about the potential for ISIS or other terrorist groups to exploit refugee flows to reach the West.

State Department officials have stood by the rigor of their vetting process, insisting refugees are the most thoroughly screened group of travelers to the US.

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