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UNHCR's Guterres meets new Syrian ambassador on Iraqi emergency

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UNHCR's Guterres meets new Syrian ambassador on Iraqi emergency

10 August 2007

Friday 10 August 2007

GENEVA - The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, met on Friday with Fayzal Khabbaz Hamoui, the new Permanent Representative in Geneva for Syria, a country now hosting nearly 1.4 million uprooted Iraqis.

"Over the past years Syria has made enormous sacrifices by receiving large numbers of Iraqis fleeing violence and persecution," Guterres told Ambassador Hamoui. "UNHCR and the humanitarian community highly value Syria's generosity and willingness to keep the borders open for Iraqis in need. We, however, also continue to appeal for international support to Syria's huge effort to provide assistance and protection to Iraqis."

In recent years more than 4 million Iraqis have fled their homes - an average now of 50,000 every month. More than 2 million Iraqis are displaced inside Iraq, while over 2 million Iraqis have fled to neighbouring countries, mainly Syria and Jordan.

In July, UNHCR doubled its special appeal for the Iraq operation to $123 million and then launched a new education appeal with UNICEF for an additional $129 million, aimed at getting 150,000 more Iraqi children back to school during the 2007-2008 school year.

Since the beginning of this year, UNHCR's office in Syria has vastly expanded its registration capacities and has now registered over 110,000 Iraqis in the capital. In the coming weeks mobile registration teams will be heading outside the capital to register those Iraqis who are unable to travel to the registration sites in Damascus.

"Syria will remain committed to its humanitarian obligations and will continue to work closely with UNHCR in dealing with this crisis," Hamoui said.