Middle East

Syria conflict: 'Door closing' on refugees, say NGOs

Syrian Kurdish refugees in Turkey - 13 November Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Some of the most recent refugees have been Kurds fleeing fighting in the north

Syria's neighbours are sharply reducing numbers of refugees from the conflict that they let onto their soil, two prominent humanitarian agencies say.

Fewer than 18,500 fled Syria in October compared with more than 150,000 a month on average in 2013.

The NGOs accused the international community of "a total collapse of solidarity".

More than 3m people have fled Syria since the conflict began in 2011, with millions more internally displaced.

The joint report by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) said many civilians who wanted to flee were now in effect trapped in Syria.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Lebanon has one of the largest populations of Syrian refugees

"Civilians are not getting out and sufficient aid is not getting in. It is a collective betrayal against men, women and children inside Syria, who are living in danger and destitution and are in acute need of assistance," said NRC Secretary General Jan Egeland in a statement.

He added that the international community had failed to provide the necessary support, and a humanitarian appeal to assist refugees in the host countries was only half funded.

"What we are witnessing now are the results of our failure to deliver the necessary support to the region," Mr Egeland said.

"We are witnessing a total collapse of international solidarity with millions of Syrian civilians."

Call for 'protection'

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Media captionSyria's civil war has forced more than nine million people from their homes

Almost all of those who have already left Syria have been taken in by neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq, the report said.

About a third have gone to Lebanon, a country with a population of just 4.5 million.

By comparison, countries outside the region had only taken about 50,000 refugees, or just 2% of the total.

Of these, just 166 have been resettled in the United States, while France has pledged to take 500 and the United Kingdom several hundred.

The agencies said developed countries should act quickly to guarantee "protection", including resettlement outside the region, for at least 5% of Syrian refugees.

On Tuesday, the UN refugee agency said it was short of the $58.5m (£37m) needed to prepare millions of Syrian refugees for the onset of winter.

Temperatures can drop as low as minus 16C (3.2F) in some parts of Syria and Iraq.