Thursday, 30 March 2017

Syrian refugees: more than 5m have now fled country, says UN

UN’s refugee agency announces new milestone after six years of war and urges countries to step up resettlement efforts
Children carrying blankets through the makeshift camp at the Greek Macedonian border.

The number of Syrians who have fled their country has topped 5 million after six years of war, the UN’s refugee agency has said.

UNHCR announced the milestone a year after participating countries at a Geneva conference pledged to “resettle and facilitate pathways for 500,000 refugees” from Syria. Only half of those places have been allocated so far.

“We still have a long road to travel in expanding resettlement and the number and range of complementary pathways available for refugees,” said the UN high commissioner for refugees, Filippo Grandi. “To meet this challenge, we not only need additional places, but also need to accelerate the implementation of existing pledges.”

Babar Baloch, a UNHCR spokesman, said no specific incident had prompted the crossing of the symbolic milestone, and that one year ago the figure was 4.8 million. The agency estimates another 6.3 million people have been internally displaced. The country’s total population was about 22 million in 2011.

Turkey, which has taken in the most Syrians by far, saw an increase of 47,000 Syrian refugees since February, bringing its total to 2.97 million, Baloch said. Lebanon and Jordan have taken in hundreds of thousands of Syrians.

The United States has the world’s largest resettlement programme, and has pledged to make 64,000 places available for Syrians, Baloch said. The Trump administration has sought to reduce the programme, but Baloch said the UN’s efforts to help resettle Syrians in the US were continuing amid US court battles over the issue.


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