UNHCR reiterates call for access to international protection for Syrian refugees

Briefing Notes, 24 May 2013

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 24 May 2013, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Geneva, 24 May 2013 -- With the violence worsening inside Syria, UNHCR expects that growing numbers of people will continue to seek safety and assistance across international borders.

UNHCR commends the neighboring governments of Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq for hosting over 1.5 million Syrian refugees so far and recognizes the heavy burden the refugee influx is placing on their societies.

While governments assure us that borders will remain open, UNHCR is concerned about reports that many Syrians trying to flee may be backed up at the borders in areas that are extremely dangerous. We are also disturbed by accounts indicating there may be restrictions imposed on those wishing to leave Syria.

We call on all parties to protect civilians and allow safe passage for those wishing to flee.

UNHCR fully acknowledges the legitimate concerns of neighboring countries, but it is essential that civilians fleeing violence have access to safety under all circumstances also in accordance to international law. UNHCR fully appreciates our permanent dialogue with these governments in this regard.

At the same time, it is critical that the international community provides urgent and robust support to refugee hosting countries and humanitarian operations to enable them to continue to receive and address the growing needs of Syrian refugees. These countries should not be left to shoulder the burden alone.

We therefore also encourage all countries, not just those bordering Syria, to keep their borders open to offer protection to Syrian refugees.

Meanwhile, UNHCR and its partners are stepping up efforts and appealing for new funds to support the refugee population with a full range of life-saving and life-sustaining assistance.

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