UNHCR director: Western world should share burden of refugees

Published 11.11.2014 15:47
Updated 11.11.2014 16:03
UNHCR director: Western world should share burden of refugees

The Western world should open its borders and share the burden of the displaced people, said the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR's Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Amin Awad, on Tuesday. Awad said, the world was becoming numb to the refugees' needs. "Now when we talk about a million people displaced over two months, or 500,000 overnight, the world is just not responding," he told reporters in Geneva.

The vast majority of Syrian refugees have gone to Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey, which Awad said "are putting us all to shame" with their support for homeless Syrian families.

About 13.6 million people, equivalent to the population of London, have been displaced by conflicts in Syria and Iraq, many without food or shelter as winter starts, the U.N. refugee agency said UNHCR on Tuesday.

The 13.6 million include 7.2 million displaced within Syria - an increase from a long-held U.N. estimate of 6.5 million, as well as 3.3 million Syrian refugees abroad, 1.9 million displaced in Iraq and 190,000 who have left to seek safety.

UNHCR says it is short of $58.5 million in donations to prepare 990,000 people for winter, money that would cover basic supplies such as plastic sheeting and warm clothing.

Without funds to cover all its needs, the agency is prioritising assistance to people at higher, colder altitudes and then the more vulnerable such as newborn babies.

Awad said Russia and China, both in the U.N. Security Council whose members also include the big Western powers, have thus far ailed to agree action to defuse the war in Syria, have come in bottom of a list of top donors and should contribute more.

"Politically they cannot really be indifferent, therefore humanitarian is an imperative and it has to be put first and foremost if there is no (political) settlement ... They need t contribute one way or the other, like the others do," he said.

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