World must resettle 480k Syrian refugees - UN chief
The UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon called on the international community to resettle some 480,000 Syrian refugees yesterday, while calling on world leaders to counter "fear-mongering" over the potential security threat posed by Middle East refugees.
"I ask that countries act with solidarity, in the name of our shared humanity, by pledging new and additional pathways for the admission of Syrian refugees," Mr Ban told an emergency summit in Geneva organised by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
His calls came as Europe prepares to implement a controversial deal to begin deporting irregular migrants - including Syrians - back to Turkey as part of a bid to end Europe's worst refugee crisis since the Second World War.
Syria's civil war continues to fuel an exodus of 4.8 million refugees from the country, although a fragile ceasefire has held over the past month.
In the latest development in halting process of negotiation, Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, yesterday ruled out accepting opposition demands for a "transitional body with full executive powers" as part of a UN-backed plan to bring peace to the country.
Instead, Assad said in an interview a national unity government would be formed by various Syrian political forces - "opposition, independent, the current government and others".
"Neither the Syrian constitution, nor the constitution of any other country in the world includes anything that is called a transitional body of power. It's illogical and unconstitutional," he told Russia's state-backed Sputnik news agency. Assad also blamed Western sanctions as the main causes of Syrian migration, glossing over his own government's role in plunging his country into civil war.
Mr Ban urged governments to focus on the benefits refugees can bring to ageing economies and said leaders must push back against anti-immigrant sentiment that depicted refugees not as victims of war, but a security risk.
"Attempts to demonize them are not only offensive; they are factually incorrect," he told the one-day conference. "I call on leaders to counter fear-mongering with reassurance, and to fight inaccurate information with the truth."
The Syrian crisis has produced 4.8m refugees and 6.6m internally displaced people. Turkey hosts some 2.7m Syrians. (© Daily Telegraph London)