Statement for World Refugee Day 2013 by António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Press Releases, 20 June 2013
I have come to Jordan on this World Refugee Day to stand by the people of Syria in their time of acute need. I also want to salute Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and all the countries in the region for being generous havens that have saved hundreds of thousands of lives.
In all the years I have worked on behalf of refugees, this is the most worrying I have ever witnessed. The needs of these people are overwhelming; their anguish is unbearable. Today, there are over 1.6 million registered Syrian refugees. More than one million of them arrived just in the last six months, and thousands more come every day, seeking places to stay, sustenance, someone who will listen and help them heal.
Inside Syria, the scale of human suffering is beyond comprehension. The Syria we once knew is no more. In the heart of a turbulent region, the country was host to over one million Iraqi and half a million Palestinian refugees. I think of the Syrians I met over the years during many visits to see Iraqi refugees. Never could they have imagined that such violence would overtake them – that they would become refugees themselves – desperate, destitute and forsaken.
I worry that an entire nation is being left to self-destruct as it empties itself of its people. I am dismayed to hear of the trauma children face. Nightmares define their waking lives as much as they haunt their sleep. School is a distant memory.
Here in Jordan, over 500,000 registered Syrian refugees live in safety now. The Zaatari Refugee Camp has become Jordan's fifth largest city and the second largest refugee camp in the world. There is hardly a town or a city in Jordan that is not host to Syrians. It is much the same in Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. This hospitality is a remarkable demonstration of humanity against a backdrop of depravity.
With no clear political resolution in sight, this civil war is in real danger of sliding into a regional conflict. It is no longer fantasy to foresee an explosion in the Middle East that the world would not be able to cope with.
We will continue to do everything we can to aid and alleviate the suffering of Syrians. But the cascade of death and destruction is spreading fast, and I repeat my call on those with political responsibilities to overcome their divisions and come together to do everything in their power to stop this war.