U.N. chides donors for not enough aid to Syrian refugees

Syria's civil war has generated the worst refugee crisis since the Rwandan genocide of the mid-1990s

Published: Updated:

The U.N. refugee agency on Sunday rebuked donors for not doing enough to help millions of Syrian refugees and the countries hosting them, saying the crisis demanded “massive support.”

Syria's civil war has generated the worst refugee crisis since the Rwandan genocide of the mid-1990s, with half the population having fled their homes, including nearly three million refugees mainly sheltering in neighboring countries.

“This enormous impact is not being fully recognized by the international community,” U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said at a meeting of senior officials from Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey.

“Let me be very clear, there has been very little support,” he said at the Zaatari refugee camp in northern Jordan, which is home to more than 100,000 Syrians.

“There must be massive support from the international community at the level of government budgets and development projects related to education, health, water and infrastructure.”

The foreign ministers from Jordan, Turkey and Iraq, as well as a deputy foreign minister from Egypt and the Lebanese social affairs minister, attended the talks and agreed to meet again in Lebanon on June 20, according to Guterres.

“It's necessary that countries around the world, not only countries of the region, keep their borders open to Syrian refugees and facilitate access to their territories with more open policy and global responsibility,” he said.

In December, the U.N. appealed for around $6.5 billion (4.7 billion euros) for victims of Syria's war, and $2.3 billion was pledged at a Kuwait donors' conference in January.

But the officials said their 2014 plan is only 25 percent funded.

In a joint statement they called for “greater assistance inside Syria and underlined the need to create an environment conducive to the safe and dignified return of Syrians,” urging a political solution to end the war.

Lebanon is home to more than one million Syrian refugees, while more than 700,000 have fled to Turkey, 600,000 to Jordan, 220,000 to Iraq and 136,000 to Egypt, according to the UNHCR.

Guterres on Saturday visited the new Azraq Syrian refugee camp which Jordan opened on Wednesday.

The 15-square-kilometre (5.7-square-mile) Azraq camp can accommodate up to 50,000 people but the UNHCR says it can be expanded to take in 130,000, making it one of the biggest in the world.

Syria's uprising began with peaceful protests in March 2011 but escalated into an insurgency after the regime opened fire on demonstrators. An estimated 150,000 people have been killed since the revolt began.