The Syrian refugee crisis is approaching a tipping point as humanitarian aid remains underfunded and neighboring countries struggle to keep up with an influx of Syrians, the UN warns.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres told the UN Security Council on Thursday that “we are approaching a dangerous turning point” regarding the refugee crisis in Syria, with the level of despair rising and the available protection space shrinking.
“If this is not addressed properly, this crisis-in-making will have huge consequences not only for the future of Syria, but for the whole region,” Guterres warned.
The high commissioner called for “massive international support” for neighboring countries hosting the Syrian refugees.
Around 3.8 million Syrian refugees currently live in Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and Egypt, according to UN figures (below picture).
According to the UN, Syrians have surpassed Afghans as the second-largest refugee population after Palestinians, fleeing to over 100 countries to escape the foreign-backed war in their country.
Exodus to Europe
Many Syrians are attempting to make their way to Europe via the Mediterranean Sea, with refugees increasingly taking to dangerous boat crossings, the UNHCR said. Conditions have become so unsafe that one person has drowned for every 20 refugees travelling by boat.
Guterres urged European governments to step up their search and rescue operations to save lives “or thousands more will die.”
The UN and the European Union have urged rich countries to take at least five percent of the refugees, especially the more vulnerable people, including those with medical needs as well as women and girls at risk.
Last year, Syrians made up one-third of the 220,000 refugees coming by boat.
Syria’s lost generation
The high commissioner also warned that almost two million Syrian refugees under the age of 18 “risk becoming a lost generation” due to limited or no access to education or jobs. Moreover, at least 100,000 children born in exile could become stateless.
This is while Syria’s ambassador to the UN, Bashar al-Ja’afari, said foreign parties’ support for ISIL Takfiri terror groups have contributed to a dire humanitarian situation in the country.
He said the best way to help Syrian refugees is to facilitate their return to their homeland by helping Syrians find a political solution to the deadly conflict in the Arab country.
Syria has been gripped by deadly violence since March 2011. The violence fuelled by ISIL Takfiri groups has so far claimed the lives of over 200,000 people.
The Western powers and their regional allies — especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey — are reportedly supporting the militants operating in the country.