Fleeing Syrians face ‘new level of hopelessness’

A Syrian refugee girl carries bread as she stands outside tents in the Bab Al-Salam refugee camp in Azaz, near the Syrian-Turkish border, October 27, 2014.

A Syrian refugee girl carries bread as she stands outside tents in the Bab Al-Salam refugee camp in Azaz, near the Syrian-Turkish border, October 27, 2014.

A new report says the plight of people fleeing Syria’s civil war has reached “a new level of hopelessness” as overstretched neighbors make it more difficult to escape and developed countries like the United States resettle a tiny number of refugees. Less than 2 percent have been given a new home.

The report released Wednesday by the International Rescue Committee and the Norwegian Refugee Council says the number of refugees from Syria has dropped sharply, with 18,483 registered in October, while an average of 150,000 were registered each month in 2013 with the United Nations refugee committee.

“We are witnessing a total collapse of international solidarity with millions of Syrian civilians,” Norwegian Refugee Council Secretary General Jan Egeland said in a statement.

Syria’s neighbors, including Lebanon and Jordan, have warned they were at the breaking point.

Tiny Lebanon last month began rejecting all but “exceptional” refugee cases.

About 3.3 million people have fled Syria during the 3½-year civil war. Lebanon, with a population of just 4.5 million, has taken in about a third of them. Millions more are displaced inside Syria.

Syria’s neighbors, also including Turkey and Iraq, say the tide of refugees has strained resources and threatened political stability. The report praises them for taking in millions of people.

“In September and October 2014 alone, Turkey received 190,000 refugees, far more than the entire international community has committed to resettle since the start of the Syrian conflict,” the report says. That surge occurred as people fled attacks by the Islamic State group.

Meanwhile, European countries and the U.S. have been extremely reluctant to accept Syria’s refugees.

The United States had resettled just 166 refugees from Syria by the end of September, the new report says. While the U.S. is the world’s largest resettlement country, it has not yet said how many Syrian refugees it will accept.

The U.S. “needs to do more, and quickly,” the report says.

So far, France has said it will resettle just 500 refugees and Britain a few hundred, the report adds.

The International Rescue Committee and the Norwegian Refugee Council are asking that developed countries move quickly to make sure that at least 5 percent of Syria’s refugees are able to “access protection,” including resettlement, outside the region.

So far, countries outside the region have agreed to take in just 50,000 refugees, or less than 2 percent, the report says.

The aid groups also call on the international community to rush urgent humanitarian aid to Syria’s neighbors to help them support the burden.

 
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