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In Malaysia, Obama Highlights Global Plight of Refugees

  • VOA News

President Barack Obama listens to a girl while meeting with children during his tour to the Dignity for Children Foundation in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Nov. 21, 2015.

President Barack Obama listens to a girl while meeting with children during his tour to the Dignity for Children Foundation in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Nov. 21, 2015.

U.S. President Barack Obama continued to make the case for his plans to accept more Syrian refugees, this time by meeting in Malaysia with children displaced by violence and poverty.

Obama, who is in Kuala Lumpur for a regional summit, on Saturday visited the Dignity for Children Foundation where he met with child refugees, some of whom will be coming to the United States.

"The world is rightly focused on the humanitarian tragedy taking place in Syria, but we can't forget that there are millions of other refugees from war-torn parts of the world," Obama said.

Rohingya Muslims

Many of the children at the center are Rohingya Muslims who have fled Myanmar, a Buddhist-majority nation where the minority group faces intense discrimination and violence.

President Barack Obama shares a laugh with a 16-year-old refugee from Myanmar after speaking about the refugee situation during a visit to the Dignity for Children Foundation in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Nov. 21, 2015.

President Barack Obama shares a laugh with a 16-year-old refugee from Myanmar after speaking about the refugee situation during a visit to the Dignity for Children Foundation in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Nov. 21, 2015.

"When I sat there and talked to them, and they were drawing or doing their math problems, they were indistinguishable from any child in America," Obama said.

"The notion that somehow we should be fearful of them, that our politics would somehow leave them to turn our sights away from their plight, is not representative of the best of who we are," he added.

The visit provided the president another chance to push back against those at home who oppose his plan to bring in 10,000 refugees this year from war-torn Syria.

That is a significant increase from the roughly 2,000 Syrian refugees the U.S. has taken in since the beginning of the Syrian civil war, but represents only a tiny fraction of the millions who have fled the war-torn country.

Refugee program

Many in the U.S. fear Islamic extremists could use the Syrian refugee program to slip into the U.S. and carry out attacks. Those fears were heightened following last week's terror attacks in Paris, which were claimed by the Islamic State group.

WATCH: Related video of U.S. President Barack Obama meeting with child refugees

During his Asia trip, Obama has repeatedly ridiculed lawmakers and Republican presidential candidates who are opposed to the plan, saying they are scared of "widows and orphans."

This past week, the Republican-led House of Representatives passed a bill that increases the restrictions on refugees from Iraq and Syria. The bill's future is uncertain in the Senate.

Obama, who returns to Washington Monday, has vowed to veto the bill, if necessary.

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