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Official: US to reach target of resettling 10,000 Syrian refugees Monday

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Posted at 9:36 AM, Aug 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-29 09:36:14-04

The Obama administration expects to reach its target of resettling 10,000 Syrian refugees within this fiscal year — October 1 — as early as Monday, according to a senior US official.

As of Sunday 9,902 Syrian refugees have been resettled in the US in the period running from September 30 of last year through now.

“Thanks to careful coordination between the Departments of State, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services, we are able to announce that in the next 24 hours we will have met President Obama’s goal of resettling 10,000 Syrian refugees to the United States by the end of this fiscal year,” the US ambassador to Jordan, Alice Wells, said Sunday.

She added that while the resettlement has outstripped the target — which was “a floor, not a ceiling” — well ahead of schedule, it did not come at the cost of the country’s rigorous screening processes.

“The United States government is deeply committed to safeguarding the American public, just as we are committed to providing refuge to some of the world’s most vulnerable people,” Wells said. “We do not believe these goals are mutually exclusive.”

The US is the largest single donor to the Syrian crisis response, she said, adding that the country’s humanitarian assistance in Syria and the region has reached “nearly $5.6 billion so far, including nearly $795 million for Jordan since… 2012.”

The families joining us this morning are among the larger group of refugees traveling today. In a few hours, they will land in the United States to start their new lives, and we wish them the best of luck as they settle in their new homes.

It is not a surprise the 10,000 number will be met. CNN reported 10 days ago the administration was expected to mark the milestone of meeting that number within the coming weeks.

At that time a State Department official said that the administration can — and likely will — accept more than 10,000 applicants and admissions are expected to continue at their current pace for the remaining six weeks.

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.