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Refugee Council Appeals to Govt to Help Syrian Refugees

MEDIA RELEASE

FOR RELEASE AT 4am Monday 2 September, 2013

Refugee Council Appeals to Govt to Help Syrian Refugees

The United Nations has confirmed that over 1 million people have now fled Syria as refugees since the civil war began 2 years ago. Over 70% of the refugees are vulnerable women and children who were forced to flee for their lives and are now surviving inside UNHCR tent cities in neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and Iraq. The alleged poison gas attack in Ghouta last week has brought worldwide condemnation and deepening concern about the deteriorating and desperate situation inside Syria.

Refugee Council of New Zealand spokesperson Gary E. Poole said that there are some Syrian refugees in New Zealand, most of them had arrived as asylum seekers and were victims of torture. “Many people know that New Zealand does accept an annual humanitarian quota from the UNHCR of 750 urgent protection high needs cases from the UNHCR, but so far they are from other countries (Afghanistan, Burma Iraq, Congo, Sri Lanka) and not from Syria,” he said. “The Syrian asylum seekers are reluctant to speak to media because they don’t want to be identified or have their families placed in greater risk back at home,” he said.

“At the recent UNHCR consultations in Geneva, the UN High Commissioner Antonio Guterres expressed deep concerns that his agency was struggling to even feed the thousands of desperate refugees pouring out of Syria at the present time. It is likely that the NZ Government will be approached by UNHCR to accept some of the Syrian refugees for resettlement here, but 150 of the 750 places in the UN quota have been displaced by the deal by our Government with Australia to take 150 of their asylum seekers arriving by boat,” he said. “Our Government probably will respond and take some of the Syrian refugees in the quota when requested to do so by UNHCR,” Poole said.

“Our recent visit to some of the camps in Lebanon has confirmed that the situation is very serious and neighbouring countries are being destabilised by the widening civil war in Syria. The humanitarian crisis is the worst we have seen since the Cambodian Crisis. The asylum seekers from Syria have often survived torture by the Assad regime and undergo treatment and rehabilitation,” he said. “The international community must act urgently to bring about a cease-fire and get the parties into negotiations.”

The Refugee Council of New Zealand is presently appealing to the Government to accept some of the high protection cases of women and children from Syria in upcoming humanitarian quota resettlement intakes.

ENDS

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