Syrian refugee crisis a disgraceful humanitarian calamity, says agency

UNHCR calls for aid to host countries as number fleeing exceeds two million

Young Syrian refugees transport supplies received from humanitarian organizations to sell outside of Al-Zaatri refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria. Photograph: Reuters

Young Syrian refugees transport supplies received from humanitarian organizations to sell outside of Al-Zaatri refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria. Photograph: Reuters

 


As the number of refugees fleeing Syria surpassed two million yesterday, the plight of those seeking to escape the country’s civil war was described as a disgraceful calamity by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

The organisation called for a significant increase in international humanitarian aid to neighbouring countries which are struggling to cope with the huge influx.

More than 97 per cent of refugees – some 5,000 a day – flee to countries which border Syria. Ministers from Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey will meet the UNHCR in Geneva today in a bid to accelerate international support.

UN high commissioner for refugees António Guterres said “Syria has become the great tragedy of this century – a disgraceful humanitarian calamity with suffering and displacement unparalleled in recent history.”


‘Haemorrhaging’
The country is “haemorrhaging” women, children and men. Almost 1.8 million have fled in the last 12 months alone. By the end of August there were approximately 110,000 refugees registered in Egypt, 168,000 in Iraq, 515,000 in Jordan, 716,000 in Lebanon and 460,000 in Turkey. More than half of the refugee population is under 17 years of age.

A further 4.25 million Syrians are displaced inside the country, according to UN figures, meaning the total number of displaced Syrians amounts to more than six million since the civil war began in March 2011.

Unicef Ireland executive director Peter Power yesterday said the refugee crisis was likely to get worse as fighting intensified. He said aid agencies were underfunded and neighbouring countries at breaking point.

“Thousands of children have lost their lives in this conflict and millions more hang in the balance. It is time to say that enough is enough and end this violence to save a generation of innocents,” Mr Power said.

He welcomed the announcement from Minister for Trade and Development Joe Costello that the Irish Government is donating a further €1 million to assist refugees who have fled the country, bringing Ireland’s total support in response to the Syrian crisis to more than €10 million.

Mr Costello said the extra funding would be aimed at providing children in particular with food, water, sanitation and protection.

“These children have suffered terrible trauma and lost their homes. In addition, this generation of Syrian children is losing out on a normal education due to displacement. Ireland is committed to helping UNHCR and Unicef provide them with basic services in the refugee camps,” he said.


‘Great generosity’
He added that neighbouring countries in the region had shown “great generosity” in accepting large numbers of refugees. “The assistance announced will benefit both those fleeing the conflict in Syria and the communities who have shown such great solidarity towards them.”

Mr Costello criticised the United Nations Security Council for its inability to come to a decision on how to deal with the conflict and said the international community was failing Syria.

He reiterated Ireland’s opposition to western military intervention in the country and said there should be a general embargo placed on arms deliveries to both sides instead.