A year after key conference sought to boost resettlement targets for Syrian refugees, half of the 500,000 places sought have been achieved

Canada. Newly arrived Syrian family at their home in Ottawa.

The Mahmut family from Syria began a new life in Ottawa in 2016, under Canada's humanitarian programme to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees.  © UNHCR

As the number of men, women and children fleeing six years of war in Syria passes the 5 million mark, the international community needs to do more to help them, the UN refugee chief said today.

“We still have a long road to travel in expanding resettlement and the number and range of complementary pathways available for refugees,” said Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

“To meet this challenge, we not only need additional places, but also need to accelerate the implementation of existing pledges.”

The remarks come one year after the High-Level Meeting on Syria sought pledges to resettle 10 per cent of all Syrian refugees by 2018. Despite the call during that meeting in Geneva on 30 March 2016 to resettle and facilitate pathways for 500,000 refugees, to date 250,000 places have been made available.

“These generous pledges are a welcome and important symbol of solidarity and responsibility-sharing by the international community. If we are to achieve our goal, we now need to accelerate these efforts in 2017 and beyond,” said High Commissioner Grandi.

With the signing of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants in September 2016, UN Member States committed to increase their efforts to find new homes for all refugees identified by UNHCR as needing protection and solutions in third countries. UNHCR estimates that almost 1.2 million refugees will need resettlement in 2017, among whom 40 per cent are Syrians.

The High Commissioner emphasized that “Resettlement is a crucially important tool for protecting refugees. Only the most vulnerable, however, are referred for resettlement. For this reason, UNHCR will continue its work with States to increase the number of resettlement places and the number and range of pathways to protection that complement resettlement. As many States know from first-hand experience, resettlement not only gives refugees the opportunity to re-build their lives, but also enriches the communities that welcome them.”

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