(Reuters) – U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on all countries on Wednesday to show solidarity and accept nearly half a million Syrian refugees for resettlement over the next three years.
Ban, kicking off a ministerial conference hosted by the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR in Geneva, said: “This demands an exponential increase in global solidarity.”
The United Nations is aiming to re-settle some 480,000 refugees, about 10 percent of those now in neighbouring countries, by the end of 2018, but has conceded it needs to overcome widespread fear and political manipulation.
Ban urged countries to pledge new and additional pathways for admitting Syrian refugees, adding: “These pathways can include resettlement or humanitarian admission, family reunions, as well as labour or study opportunities.”
Filippo Grandi, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said the refugees were facing increasing obstacles to find safety.
“We must find a way to manage this crisis in a more humane, equitable and organised manner. It is only possible if the international community is united and in agreement on how to move forward,” Grandi said.
The five-year conflict has killed at least 250,000 and driven nearly 5 million refugees abroad, mostly to neighbouring Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.
Grandi said: “If Europe were to welcome the same percentage of refugees as Lebanon in comparison to its population, it would have to take in 100 million refugees.”
Ban, referring to U.N.-led efforts to end the war, said:
“We have a cessation of hostilities, by and large holding for over a month, but the parties must consolidate and expand it into a ceasefire, and ultimately to a political solution through dialogue.”
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Alison Williams)