UNHCR chief appeals int'l community to offer more support to Iraqi refugees, host countries

08:13, June 21, 2010      

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The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres called on Sunday the international community to offer the Iraqi refugees and the host countries more support.

"I want to appeal the international community to be more effective in its support to Iraqi refugees and to the host countries which are sharing refugees with their own resources," he said.

Guterres made the call at a press conference held in UNHCR headquarter in Damascus, acknowledging Syria for securing resort and protection for the Iraqi refugees.

"As we celebrate the World Refugee Day, I'd like to thank the Syrian government and people for the generosity and hospitality it showed to the Iraqi refugees," he said.

"I'd like to underline the open-door policy that the Syrian government has adopted towards the Iraqis who left their country due to the bad security conditions," he added.

Guterres indicated that Syria's economy has suffered due to the needs of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees, but the Syrian government has never forced anyone to leave.

"Syria has been housing for years such a large number of Iraqis with a huge impact on the economy and society, and this is an example that should be followed everywhere," he said.

Guterres visited Friday the remote al-Hol refugee camp in Hasaka province in northern Syria to check on the conditions of the Iraqi, Palestinian refugees there.

Guterres supervised Saturday the distribution of aid offered by the UNHCR to Iraqi refugees in Damascus. The aid, consisting of canned food, rice, sugar, oil and other items, will be delivered over 15 days in Damascus to 126,000 Iraqi refugees registered with the UN offices.

A four-month World Food Program (WFP) project has been launched recently to cover 200,000 Iraqi refugees in Syria.

The project is based on sending mobile phone text messages to Iraqis living in Syria, conveying a code number which allows him or her to get food staff from governmental stores.

Syria, according to government estimates, hosts over 1 million Iraqi refugees who constitute one of the largest urban refugee populations in the world.

The UNHCR local office in Syria commemorated World Refugee Day on Sunday in Qasr Al-Azem in old Damascus. It is the first time that this global event is hosted in the Middle East.

Source: Xinhua


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