The UN refugee agency said Tuesday that it was in talks with Germany over the potential resettlement of 10,000 Syrians who have fled their war-torn homeland, and was probing the issue with other rich nations.
“We are working with governments, including European governments, to examine ways in which further admission programmes and or resettlement programmes for Syrians could be successfully used,” said UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards.
“We have been, with the German government, for some time been looking at possible resettlement for up to 10,000 Syrian refugees. Germany is one of the world’s largest refugee receiving countries, but I don’t think numbers have at this stage been discussed with others,” he told reporters.
Edwards did not elaborate on possible talks with Washington, but noted that the United States is the world’s top destination for resettlement, as opposed to temporary asylum.
Edwards said that governments were due to hold talks in Geneva on potential resettlement programmes later this month or in early July.
He underlined, however, that resettlement was just one tool used in crisis situations, and that most Syrians who have fled still wanted to go back when the fighting ends.
“Resettlement is a category that is normally reserved for very vulnerable groups, very vulnerable individuals,” he said.
“In any resettlement programme from any country, you’re talking about tiny numbers compared with the overall refugee population,” he added.
There are some 80,000 resettlement places a year worldwide, compared with 15 million refugees.
“We’re not at this stage announcing big resettlement programmes (for Syria). We’re certainly nowhere near that at this moment,” he added.
Refugee numbers have spiralled to 1.6 million after over two years of fighting in Syria between rebels and the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, with most fleeing to neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq, as well as to Egypt.
The UN has warned that the total could reach 3.45 million this year.
“The Syria situation, with 1.6 million refugees in the region, is placing enormous pressure on the immediate surrounding countries. Nonetheless, the priority right now is to maintain asylum in that region,” Edwards said.
“But we do think it’s important that countries outside the immediate region really show solidarity with the countries most affected by this crisis,” he underlined.
“The focus is on finding whether we can broaden expressions of solidarity from other countries, to go beyond simply financial help,” he added.