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UNHCR Seeks Homes for Nearly Half Million Syrian Refugees

  • Lisa Schlein

A general view shows al-Zaatari refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, March 7, 2016. Since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, 50-80 Syrian children have been born in the Zaatari refugee camp each week, according to the official website of UNHCR.

A general view shows al-Zaatari refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, March 7, 2016. Since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, 50-80 Syrian children have been born in the Zaatari refugee camp each week, according to the official website of UNHCR.

The U.N. refugee agency is appealing to countries worldwide to provide homes for nearly one-half million of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees. The UNHCR is urging representatives of more than 90 countries attending a ministerial-level conference to grant refuge to the Syrians through resettlement and other humanitarian programs.

Countries neighboring Syria are bearing the brunt of the Syrian refugee crisis. They are hosting 4.8 million refugees. The U.N. refugee agency says other nations must shoulder some of the burden.

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi says his agency aims to resettle one-tenth, or about 480,000 of the refugees over the next three years. He acknowledges it will not be easy, especially in light of the growing resistance by nations in Europe and elsewhere to welcome people fleeing conflict and persecution.

He says large numbers of desperate Syrians are undertaking dangerous journeys across the Mediterranean Sea in search of refuge in Europe. He indicates the recent EU-Turkey resettlement agreement is unlikely to resolve the Syrian refugee crisis.

A migrant boy shows a banner saying he wants to travel to Germany rather than camps set up by Turkey, during a protest demanding the opening of the border between Greece and Macedonia in the northern Greek border station of Idomeni, Greece, March 23, 201

A migrant boy shows a banner saying he wants to travel to Germany rather than camps set up by Turkey, during a protest demanding the opening of the border between Greece and Macedonia in the northern Greek border station of Idomeni, Greece, March 23, 201

“Our point to both Turkey and the European Union and in fact to the International Community is that legal pathways for admission are a very powerful alternative to dangerous journeys, especially for vulnerable people. So, the sooner those are implemented, the more people will be discouraged from resorting to boats and other means of movement,” he said.

Besides resettlement, the UNHCR offers other legal pathways for countries to consider. These include academic scholarships, humanitarian visas, accelerated and easier family reunification programs, and medical treatment.

Ban Ki-moon

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon lends his voice to the UNHCR’s appeal for countries to resettle Syrian refugees. He says nations benefit from refugees who bring valuable new skills and make many positive economic contributions to their societies.

“Attempts to demonize people fleeing conflict and persecution are not only demeaning, offensive, and counterproductive, they are factually wrong. And measures to control the entry of refugees must safeguard the human rights and dignity of each individual person,” he said.

The Syrian refugee crisis is the world’s largest since World War II. The UNHCR reports countries have offered more than 179,0000 resettlement places for Syrian refugees since 2013. It says it hopes more pledges will be forthcoming during the conference. It adds this is a global crisis that needs a global response.

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