Germany's foreign minister called Tuesday for a "vow of solidarity" from the international community for millions of Syrian refugees and the countries such as Lebanon struggling to host them.
An international conference on the Syrian refugee crisis vowed Tuesday to extend longterm financial aid to countries struggling with what the UN calls the world’s “most dramatic humanitarian crisis”, but did not commit to an overall figure.
Around 40 countries and international bodies adopted a declaration saying donors would “mobilise for years to come” increased development support to help nations like Lebanon and Jordan shoulder the impact of millions of Syrian refugees.
It did not include any concrete figures. Germany said this had not been the conference’s prime aim.
Berlin said it was budgeting 500 million euros ($637 million) for 2015-2017 to help Syrian refugees and the US announced $10 million in additional humanitarian assistance for host communities in the region.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres told the one-day conference in Berlin that the impact of the flood of Syrians fleeing the three-and-a-half year conflict in their homeland was “enormous” on its neighbours.
“Economics, public services, the social fabric of communities and the welfare of families are all affected, not to mention the security impact of the Syrian conflict in the whole region,” he told the gathering.
More than three million Syrians have fled their country since the uprising that began in March 2011, with most taking shelter in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq.
“The host countries need and deserve much stronger financial support to their budgets to allow them to address the structural gaps,” Guterres said.
He said aid was need in the areas of education, health care and infrastructure.
He described the Syrian situation as “the most dramatic humanitarian crisis the world has faced in a very long time”, as ministers from Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt and Iraq outlined their struggle.
Germany has taken in around 70,000 Syrian refugees in the past three years, its foreign minister said.
The UN refugee chief said Germany’s intake didn’t solve the problem and called for all other nations to follow its lead.
“We ask the neighbouring countries to keep their borders open but we ask all countries in the world to keep their borders open,” he told reporters after the talks.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier had stressed the need for the conference to focus not only on the refugees’ humanitarian needs but on the wider need to shore up the stability of host countries struggling to cope with the waves of refugees.
– ‘Beyond its absorption capacities’ –
“Lebanon, as it has been recognised by all, is beyond its absorption capacities and urgently needs other countries to share its burden,” Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam said.
He said the massive influx of Syrians into poor communities had had “a destabilising effect” that prompted “challenges and threats that constitute a fertile ground for extremism and violence”.
Lebanon last week said it would ask the UN to stop registering refugees who enter the country from war-torn Syria, formalising a decision to all but close its borders to them.
It already hosts more than 1.1 million Syrian refugees, an enormous strain for a country with a population of just four million.
The influx has tested overstretched infrastructure and created fresh tensions.
Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil told reporters that his country wanted to help the neediest Syrians who are fleeing “out of fear” rather than economic need.
“And this by itself will resolve half of the problem of the Syrian refugees,” he told a joint press conference with Steinmeier, Guterres and other participants.
Human Rights Watch told non-host countries in a statement that it would be the “height of hypocrisy” to push Syria’s neighbours to keep their borders open to refugees, while tightening their own measures for asylum seekers.
About 1.5 million Syrians, including refugees and economic migrants who arrived before the crisis, are currently living in Jordan, with 140,000 Syrian students swelling Jordan’s education system, its foreign minister Nasser Judeh said.
He stressed the pressures on the country’s health system and other services, and stiff competition for jobs.