Middle East

Syrian war: Western countries to accept more refugees

Syrian refugees play at the Al Zaatari refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq (7 December 2014) Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The UN says that may Syrian refugees suffer from ill health and from the trauma of war

Western countries have promised to increase the number of Syrian refugees they will accept for resettlement to up to 100,000 over the next few months, the UN refugee agency has said.

The UNHCR made the announcement at a meeting of member states in Geneva.

The 100,000 figure is still well short of what the UN and aid agencies wanted.

Most refugees - around three-million - are in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan. Up until now only about 62,000 have been allowed into Western countries.

The commitment by them to accept more came at the end of a pledging conference in Geneva, during which aid organisations such as Oxfam and Save the Children urged wealthy countries to accept at least 5%, or 180,000, of the most vulnerable refugees from Syria.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The influx of refugees has put extra pressure on Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon , Iraq and Egypt
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Children are among the most vulnerable Syrian refugees living in makeshift camps throughout the Middle East

The UNHCR said that while it welcomed the new offers of resettlement - it had hoped for more because so many refugees are suffering from ill health and war trauma.

"Twenty-eight countries expressed their solidarity with the Syrian refugees but also with the five neighbouring countries which are hosting them... Offering what we estimate will be more than 100,000 opportunities for resettlement and humanitarian admission," UNHCR head Antonio Guterres told reporters after the conference.

But the BBC's Imogen Foulkes in Geneva says that what has been offered by Western countries is a somewhat vague commitment.

The US, UK and the wealthy Gulf states did not offer any concrete numbers - our correspondent says that the UN will be especially disappointed by that, as it had lobbied them hard.

The US and the UK say they will continue to focus on supporting Syria's neighbours, who are bearing the biggest burden of the refugee crisis - but Lebanon and Jordan have for months been warning that they cannot take many more people.

The UN's food agency meanwhile has reinstated a food program for Syrian refugees that was suspended on 1 December.

A system of electronic food vouchers, which helped feed 1.7 million Syrians in Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt, was stopped due to a funding shortfall.

But officials from the World Food Program said they would reintroduce it after securing $80m (£51m) through an online fundraising campaign.

Officials from some 40 governments took part in Tuesday's conference to discuss resettling refugees outside the Middle East.

More than 30 humanitarian organisations have warned that the "extraordinary generosity" of countries such as Lebanon and Jordan is at "breaking point".

Syrian refugee populations


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