US senators push to admit more Syrian refugees

WASHINGTON- Democratic and Republican USsenators called on Tuesday for the country to take in more ofthe millions of people forced from their homes during Syria'snearly three-year civil war.

Only 31 Syrian refugees - out of an estimated 2.3 million -were allowed into the United States in the fiscal year thatended in October.

At a Senate hearing a week before an international donorsconference in Kuwait, US officials and senators discussed thecrisis in Syria, and the burden of housing hundreds of thousandsof refugees for neighboring countries such as Jordan andLebanon.

"This is the world's worst ongoing humanitarian crisis andthe worst refugee crisis since the Rwandan genocide in 1994, andperhaps since World War Two," said Illinois Senator RichardDurbin, chairman of the Senate subcommittee on human rights, whosaid the United States has a "moral obligation" to assist.

So far, 135,000 Syrians have applied for asylum in theUnited States. But strict restrictions on immigration, manyinstituted to prevent terrorists from entering the country, havekept almost all of them out.

Washington has provided $1.3 billion in humanitarianassistance to aid Syrian refugees.

The United Nations is also trying to relocate this year30,000 displaced Syrians it considers especially vulnerable.

Witnesses testified that Washington would normally accepthalf, but they do not expect significant numbers to be admittedthis year despite the extent of the crisis.

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