UN calls on the international community to help Iraqi refugees
Cairo, March 4, (VOI) – On Sunday, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), António Guterres, urged the international community to shoulder its responsibilities towards Iraqi refugees and to help the countries that host them, particularly Jordan and Syria.
“The mass media showed great interest in developments in Iraq but no one showed interest in the ensuing tragedy: the largest displacement in the region since 1948,” Guterres said in his inaugural address of the 127th session of the Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo on Sunday.
Guterres pointed out, “millions of Iraqis decided to leave their homes to escape threats against their lives or to relocate to other areas inside the country.”
The UNHCR praised Jordan and Syria for having taken on the largest refugee burden. Syria hosts about one million Iraqis and Jordan 750,000, adding that these two countries have been left unassisted, which caused price hikes there as well as other problems.
“I totally understand the fears these two countries have about their own national security but after all the (Iraqi) refugees are victims of terrorism and can never be terrorists,” said Guterres.
The UNHCR chief also announced that an international conference on Iraqi refugees would be held in Geneva in April, and said he had discussed with Syria and Jordan “the preparation of this conference and the way to make it a success.”
Between 600,000 and one million Iraqi refugees are believed to have fled to Syria, and around 750,000 are estimated to be in neighboring Jordan.
Syria’s vice president has blamed Washington for the “humanitarian catastrophe” caused by the outflow of refugees from war-torn Iraq, and told Guterres the arrivals had “imposed heavy economic, social and security burdens.”
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has authorized diplomatic talks with Syria about the Iraqi refugee crisis, despite a continuing freeze on high-level contact with Damascus.