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International support needed for States hosting displaced Iraqis, UN official says

International support needed for States hosting displaced Iraqis, UN official says

UNHCR chief António Guterres
The chief of the United Nations refugee agency called for increased international support for States such as Jordan and Syria which have made a “huge sacrifice” by hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing war-torn Iraq.

“A limited number of countries are paying a very heavy price for the protection of these people in distress,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) António Guterres told the press yesterday in Jordan’s capital Amman on the third leg of a weeklong trip to the Gulf region.

He called the sacrifices made by these countries “remarkable,” adding that the international community “needs to assume full responsibility supporting them.”

Iraq’s neighbours are all experiencing the ramifications of the violence tearing up the country. UNHCR estimated that approximately 2 million Iraqis – between 500,000 to 1 million Iraqis in Syria; 750,000 in Jordan; between 20,000 to 80,000 in Egypt; up to 40,000 in Lebanon; and several thousand in Turkey – have fled their homeland thus far.

The High Commissioner, in the region to promote a UNHCR conference to be held in April in Geneva to address humanitarian issues posed by displacement, also emphasized that this is the single largest long-term population movement in the Middle East since Palestinians fled after the creation of Israel in 1948. While ensuring protection for Iraqis is necessary, Mr. Guterres said that host countries’ concerns regarding security must also be recognized and addressed.

He also underscored the humanitarian, and not political, nature of UNHCR, and stated the agency cannot cure the “disease,” or the Iraq conflict. “We are not doctors, we are only nurses,” Mr. Guterres said. “We are humanitarian, so we will go on dealing with the symptoms. To cure the disease means bringing stability and security to Iraq and that needs the engagement of Iraqis as well as the international community as a whole.”

Last month, UNHCR launched a $60 million appeal for the agency to continue its work in Iraq and surrounding areas for the next year. “The longer this conflict goes on, the more difficult it becomes for the hundreds of thousands of people displaced and the communities that are trying to help them – both inside and outside Iraq,” Mr. Guterres said at the time.

Yesterday he stated that he had held “meaningful discussions” in Jordan with Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit as well as the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and the Interior, among other officials.