Kerry Pledges More U.S. Help Ahead Of EU Meeting On Migrant Crisis

Kerry Pledges More U.S. Help Ahead Of EU Meeting On Migrant Crisis

10:29pm Sep 21, 2015

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Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Here is the latest number that tells the story of the migrant and refugee crisis in Europe - 20,000. That's how many people arrived in Austria over the weekend. In stunning numbers, people are fleeing from Syria and elsewhere. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was in Berlin yesterday to discuss this crisis. And that's where NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson begins her coverage.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Kerry announced during his visit here that the Obama administration is raising to 100,000 the number of refugees the United States will accept by 2017. That's a significant increase by American standards. But Kerry acknowledged it doesn't address the overall need.

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JOHN KERRY: We understand the responsibility, but taking folks out of Syria, for us at least given our law right now, post 9/11, requires a very specific vetting security process. And we can target it. I could announce to you, oh, we're going to try to take whatever larger number, but we don't have the money allocated by Congress to hire the people necessary to do the job of expediting and moving it.

NELSON: Last year, the U.S. spent more than a billion dollars to screen and resettle 70,000 refugees. That's less than a sixth of what Germany will spend on more than 800,000 asylum-seekers coming from Syria and elsewhere this year, a post-World War II record. But German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier refused to criticize the new U.S. plan.

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FRANK-WALTER STEINMEIER: (Speaking German).

NELSON: Steinmeier told reporters, "it's more important to tackle issues that lead to so many people fleeing in the first place." "That's something," he says, "the U.S. and Germany agree on." Yesterday some of those fleeing to Europe breathed a collective sigh of relief. Hungarian and Serbian interior ministers were on hand as a controversial gate that effectively sealed their border was removed.

Budapest had erected the barrier last week, which forced thousands of desperate migrants into neighboring countries to try and find a new way to get to Austria and points north. The barrier and other fences Hungary is now building along its borders with Croatia and Romania led the three EU countries to lash out at each other over their different responses to the migrant crisis. And in Germany, the government complained about the lack of a unified European response.

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ANGELA MERKEL: (Speaking German).

NELSON: At a trade union meeting in Leipzig yesterday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, "we are members of a European Union with common values and open borders, and there's a joint responsibility that comes with that." Merkel also warned that Germany's welcome is not unconditional. She said migrants coming here for economic reasons will be sent back home. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Berlin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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