GENEVA, May 24 (UNHCR) – The UN refugee agency on Friday called on countries around Syria to keep their borders open for refugees while stressing that “urgent and robust” international support for host countries and aid organizations was vital.
Amid worsening violence inside Syria, UNHCR expects the number of refugees – currently more than 1.5 million – to continue climbing steeply and put more pressure on host countries such as Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq, UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming told journalists in Geneva.
While commending the governments of neighbouring countries for hosting so many people, she said UNHCR was concerned about reports that many Syrians trying to flee might be stuck at the border in extremely dangerous areas. “We are also disturbed by accounts indicating there may be restrictions imposed on those wishing to leave Syria,” Fleming said.
The spokesperson reiterated a call on all parties to protect civilians and allow safe passage for those wishing to flee. She said that while UNHCR acknowledged the legitimate concerns of neighbouring countries, “it is essential that civilians fleeing violence have access to safety under all circumstances also in accordance to international law.”
She said UNHCR urged all countries, not just those bordering Syria, to keep their borders open to offer protection to Syrian refugees.
Fleming also said it was 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.”
UNHCR and its partners are stepping up efforts and appealing for new funds to support the refugee population with life-saving and life-sustaining assistance.