UN refugee chief calls on Turkey to admit more Syrian refugees amid military escalation in Idlib

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PHOTO: AFP

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi on Thursday called on Syria’s neighbors, including Turkey, to admit more Syrian refugees amid what he called “the dramatically worsening situation” in Syria’s Idlib province, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

“As in the past, in moments of crisis, I am also appealing for neighboring countries, including Turkey, to broaden admissions, so that those most in danger can reach safety – even knowing that capacities and public support are already strained,” Grandi said.

“For these countries, already hosting 5.6 million refugees, of whom 3.6 million are in Turkey, international support must be sustained and stepped up.”

He also said he supports calls for a cessation of hostilities.

“We need an end to the fighting, and access to safety to preserve lives,” he said.

In a press release, the UN refugee agency chief appealed for urgent action to allow people trapped in the conflict to move to places of safety.

More than 900,000 people are estimated to have fled their homes or shelters in Idlib in recent months, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Most of those fleeing are now in the northern Idlib and Aleppo regions, compounding the already disastrous humanitarian situation there, amid freezing conditions.

Grandi noted that UN Secretary-General António Guterres had appealed for parties to the conflict to respect the rules of war.

“Every day that passes, that call is more urgent. Thousands of innocent people cannot pay the price of a divided international community, whose inability to find a solution to this crisis is going to be a grave stain on our collective international conscience.”

The UNHCR estimates there are currently over 4 million civilians in northwestern Syria.

More than half are internally displaced, and many have been displaced for years after being forced to flee several times.

Some 80 percent of the newly displaced are women and children, and many elderly people are also at risk, said the refugee agency.

“The UN and other partners in Syria and elsewhere have been working over weeks to help displaced people in the Idlib area. Given the intensity and scale of displacement, shelter needs are critical,” said the UNHCR.

The agency also said the harsh winter weather – including snow, flooding, sub-zero temperatures and rising fuel prices – were adding to the difficulties and suffering.

Humanitarian organizations are trying to reach people by all possible means, including through cross-border shipments of shelter and emergency aid kits from Turkey, it added.

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