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UN Refugee Agency chief appeals for support for Iraqi refugees

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UN Refugee Agency chief appeals for support for Iraqi refugees

26 January 2011

GENEVA - UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, announced today an inter-agency appeal for US$280 million to support Iraqi refugees. The Regional Response Plan for Iraqi Refugees brings together the plans of 40 international organisations and NGOs who are supporting Iraqi refugees in 12 countries including Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey, Iran and the six Gulf states.

"I appeal to donor governments to recognize the critical needs of Iraqi refugees," said Guterres. "Particularly those who are becoming more vulnerable by the day," he added.

This new appeal highlights the needs of over 190,000 Iraqi refugees registered with UNHCR in the region; the majority live in Syria and Jordan. It also includes a number of programmes that support the education and health systems of these host countries.

Announcing the appeal two days after returning from Iraq, he noted that "the new government represents an enormous opportunity for Iraq but also for our work. I hope we are marking the beginning of the end of the displacement chapter in Iraq."

The majority of Iraqi refugees in Syria and Jordan fled more than three years ago. Many have found it challenging to find work, making them reliant on ever dwindling savings and the support offered by international organisations and local NGOs. One of the worst consequences of this poverty is the number of Iraqi refugee children who have left school to find casual work to help feed their families. Stressing the importance of supporting refugees Guterres said, "when an Iraqi child goes to school rather than work, you are investing in the future of Iraq".

UNHCR's registration database of Iraqi refugees shows that 34% are considered to be vulnerable, including thousands of people with critical health conditions and a significant number of female headed households.

While over 89,000 Iraqi refugees have returned to Iraq in the past three years, the rate of return has slowed recently and new asylum-seekers continue to register with UNHCR in neighbouring countries.

Highlighting the continued friendship and solidarity offered by host governments to Iraqi refugees, Guterres warned that "the burden on host communities and host governments in the region is enormous. It is essential that the international community support humanitarian efforts to help the most vulnerable refugees."

Guterres also thanked the countries that have offered resettlement to over 60,000 Iraqi refugees that have departed to new homes since 2007. UNHCR estimates that some 60,000 Iraqi refugees are in need of resettlement.