UNHCR chief addresses UN Security Council on deepening crisis in Syria

News Stories, 30 August 2012

© UN Photo/JC McIlwaine
António Guterres (right), UN High Commissioner for Refugees, addresses the Security Council's ministerial meeting on the humanitarian situation in Syria.

NEW YORK, United States, August 30 (UNHCR) UN High Commissioner for Refugee António Guterres on Thursday addressed the UN Security Council on the "dramatic and deepening humanitarian crisis" in Syria, while calling for increased international support for relief efforts.

Noting Syria's long and generous history of providing refuge to people in need of sanctuary, including Palestinian and Iraqi refugees, he said it was "now particularly heartbreaking to see so many Syrian citizens losing their lives, uprooted from their homes, and trapped in war zones."

The High Commissioner, noting that the ability of "the international system" to respond to the escalating violence in Syria was being tested in many ways, called on all parties to the conflict "to grant unrestricted humanitarian access inside Syria in order to enable humanitarian actors to deliver protection and assistance."

He also urged all parties to continue to respect and provide protection to the tens of thousands of Iraqi, Palestinian and other refugees inside Syria. "We are all aware of the complexity of the Palestinian refugee issue, and its impact on countries in the region. A situation in which large numbers of Palestinians are forced to flee must be avoided at all cost," he stressed.

Guterres also called for "enhanced international support to all victims of the conflict. I urge all states to respond positively to the two appeals that will shortly be made by the humanitarian community for additional funding in countries of asylum and inside Syria." But he added that international support must also "translate into effective burden-sharing and meaningful support to governments and communities in refugee-hosting countries."

The High Commissioner also asked all states in the region and beyond to "continue to extend protection to the Syrians fleeing their country, and to ensure that the civilian and humanitarian character of asylum is maintained, in accordance with international law."

He said the commitment of neighbouring countries to refugee protection has "upheld the internationally recognized principle whereby all human beings have the right to seek and enjoy asylum in another state."

"This is a right," he stressed, "that must not be jeopardized, for instance through the establishment of so-called 'safe havens' or other similar arrangements. Bitter experience has shown that it is rarely possible to provide effective protection and security in such areas."

In conclusion, Guterres said there could be no humanitarian solution to the Syrian crisis. "Only through a political solution leading to peace can the humanitarian emergency be brought to a conclusion," he stressed, adding: "As history has so clearly demonstrated in the Middle East and elsewhere, it is in nobody's interest for a political conflict and the plight of its resultant refugee population to be left unresolved."

The High Commissioner's Speech




UNHCR country pages


Advocacy is a key element in UNHCR activities to protect people of concern.

Iraqi Children Go To School in Syria

UNHCR aims to help 25,000 refugee children go to school in Syria by providing financial assistance to families and donating school uniforms and supplies.

There are some 1.4 million Iraqi refugees living in Syria, most having fled the extreme sectarian violence sparked by the bombing of the Golden Mosque of Samarra in 2006.

Many Iraqi refugee parents regard education as a top priority, equal in importance to security. While in Iraq, violence and displacement made it difficult for refugee children to attend school with any regularity and many fell behind. Although education is free in Syria, fees associated with uniforms, supplies and transportation make attending school impossible. And far too many refugee children have to work to support their families instead of attending school.

To encourage poor Iraqi families to register their children, UNHCR plans to provide financial assistance to at least 25,000 school-age children, and to provide uniforms, books and school supplies to Iraqi refugees registered with UNHCR. The agency will also advise refugees of their right to send their children to school, and will support NGO programmes for working children.

UNHCR's ninemillion campaign aims to provide a healthy and safe learning environment for nine million refugee children by 2010.

Iraqi Children Go To School in Syria

Iraqi Refugees in Syria: 2,000 New Arrivals Daily

The UN refugee agency is increasingly alarmed over the continuing violence in Iraq and distressed about the lack of an international humanitarian response to deal with the massive numbers of people being displaced. After an assessment mission in November last year, UNHCR officials warned that the agency was facing an even larger humanitarian crisis than it had prepared for in 2002-03. But UNHCR and other organisations are sorely lacking in funds to cope with the growing numbers of displaced.

In an effort to fill the massive gap in funding, UNHCR in January 2007 launched a US$60 million appeal to cover its protection and assistance programmes for Iraqi refugees in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Turkey, as well as non Iraqi refugees and internally displaced people within strife torn Iraq.

The longer the Iraq conflict goes on, the more difficult it will become for the hundreds of thousands of displaced and the communities that are trying to help them – both inside and outside Iraq. Because the burden on host communities and governments in the region is enormous, it is essential that the international community support humanitarian efforts.

Posted on 5 February 2007

Iraqi Refugees in Syria: 2,000 New Arrivals Daily

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie meets Iraqi refugees in Syria

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie returned to the Syrian capital Damascus on 2 October, 2009 to meet Iraqi refugees two years after her last visit. The award-winning American actress, accompanied by her partner Brad Pitt, took the opportunity to urge the international community not to forget the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees who remain in exile despite a relative improvement in the security situation in their homeland. Jolie said most Iraqi refugees cannot return to Iraq in view of the severe trauma they experienced there, the uncertainty linked to the coming Iraqi elections, the security issues and the lack of basic services. They will need continued support from the international community, she said. The Goodwill Ambassador visited the homes of two vulnerable Iraqi families in the Jaramana district of southern Damascus. She was particularly moved during a meeting with a woman from a religious minority who told Jolie how she was physically abused and her son tortured after being abducted earlier this year in Iraq and held for days. They decided to flee to Syria, which has been a generous host to refugees.

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie meets Iraqi refugees in Syria

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