Syria's neighbors call for help with refugee flood

AP News
Posted: Oct 28, 2014 11:20 AM
Syria's neighbors call for help with refugee flood

BERLIN (AP) — Syria's neighbors on Tuesday urged European countries to open their doors to more refugees from the 3½-year civil war, and for immediate financial and technological help as their infrastructures buckle under the massive influx.

More than 3 million people have fled Syria because of the conflict, mostly to neighboring countries. Another 6 million are displaced within Syria.

Lebanon, whose population is only 4.5 million, has taken on some 1.1 million refugees. Its prime minister, Tammam Salam, told a Berlin conference of foreign ministers and representatives from 40 nations that the status quo was unsustainable.

In addition to placing huge strains on the country's hospitals, schools and other institutions, the refugees also are taking jobs from Lebanese workers, creating resentment, he said.

"The massive influx of Syrians into poor communities totally unprepared to cope with such a sudden burden has had a destabilizing effect, with a variety of challenges and threats that constitute a fertile ground for extremism and violence," Salam said.

Jordan warned of similar issues, while Turkey's deputy foreign minister, Naci Koru, noted that his country had spent some $4 billion on dealing with Syrian refugees so far, and received only $250 million from the international community.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who organized the one-day conference, said in addition to easing the hardships of the refugees themselves, the focus needed to be on international investment in hospitals, schools, water supplies and waste disposal systems in the neighboring countries.

"This is not only a question of more money," he said. "We also need to use the funding more effectively and more sustainably."

He noted that Germany has taken in some 70,000 Syrians since 2012 and is willing to do more.

"We hear the call from host countries to reduce the number of refugees," he said.

The U.S. pledged to send an additional $10 million to the effort, aid that officials said would help buy school supplies, build health clinics, improve water and sewage systems, and generally ease financial pressures on neighboring countries. The new funds bring total U.S. humanitarian donations to $2.9 billion since the start of the Syrian civil war.

Anne Richard, an assistant U.S. secretary of state for refugee issues, urged at the conference that governments in the region continue accepting refugees despite the strain on local economies.