UN asks countries to take Syrian refugees

Geneva – More than 300 000 Syrian refugees need to be resettled from the Middle East to other countries, UN refugee chief Antonio Guterres said Tuesday in Geneva, calling on the international community to open borders for victims of the conflict.

While countries in Syria’s neighbourhood are hosting 3.3 million Syrians, industrialized countries have received only 253 000 Syrians as asylum seekers and under long-term resettlement plans since the conflict started in 2011.

The inflow from Syria greatly challenges national economies, public services, and societies in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Guterres said.

He spoke at a conference aimed at getting countries to offer more places for resettlement, as well as humanitarian, family and student visas to Syrians.

So far, less than half of the necessary 130 000 resettlement places have been offered for the 2014-2016 period, Guterres said.

“Much more will be needed,” he added. He said that one in ten refugees is in need of resettlement, especially torture victims, ill refugees and single mothers with several children.

“We must take in refugees of the Syrian civil war who need special protection,” said Emily Haber, German secretary of state in the Interior Ministry.

Germany has admitted some 80 000 Syrian refugees, the highest number of any country outside the Middle East.

Haber called on all EU countries to do their share in caring for Syrians and said her country was to do more.

Meanwhile, private individual donors and governments heeded a call by the World Food Programme (WFP) to donate for Syrian refugees, allowing the UN agency to resume its food aid in Syria’s neighbouring countries.

WFP was forced last week to stop its entire aid for the 1.7 million Syrians because donor countries had not supplied enough money, leaving a 64-million-dollar shortfall for December.

An online fundraising campaign that was started last Wednesday yielded more than 80 million dollars, of which 1.8 million dollars were contributed by 14 000 individual and private sector donors.

“This outpouring of support in such a short time is unprecedented,” WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin said.

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