Sunday 24 September 2017

World 'asleep' as Syria spawns worst refugee crisis in decades

Phoebe Greenwood Tel Aviv

The international community is "sleepwalking" into the greatest refugee crisis for decades, with up to three million likely to have fled Syria by the end of the year, aid officials have warned.

Kristalina Georgieva, commissioner for the humanitarian aid and civil protection department of the European Commission, compared the Syrian crisis to Afghanistan, currently the source of the world's largest refugee crisis with an estimated 2.5 million Afghans having fled conflict over 22 years.

But the UN estimates that the figure will be surpassed by Syria after more that two years of civil war.

Ms Georgeiva told reporters that Washington's decision to arm rebel groups was a poor substitute for forging a peace plan that the United Nations Security Council will unite behind.

"I haven't seen a situation where more arms leads to more opportunities for negotiations (toward a resolution). Not to mention what this might mean for the rise of extremism," she said.

While the EC would continue its unprecedented aid effort, global humanitarian resources were finite. A political resolution must be reached before Lebanon or Jordan or both were stretched to breaking point, Ms Georgeiva said.

"It is so disappointing to see the international community sleepwalking into this disaster," she said.

The G8 leaders failed to advance the chances of peace this week. The deepening division between Russian and Western allegiances within the Security Council means an international peace conference on Syria that was due to take place in Geneva this month has now been delayed until August at the earliest.

To date, at least 1.66 million Syrians have fled the bloodshed to neighbouring countries, with Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq bearing the brunt.

Stressing that half of the refugees fleeing Syria were children, many of whom had now been out of school for two years, Ms Georgieva warned that it might already be too late to avert the imminent danger to regional security from a generation of children "with no jobs but with guns in their hands". (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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