1 Oct 2013

Syrian refugees placing huge burden on neighbours

6:07 am on 1 October 2013

Syria's neighbours are asking for financial support to deal with the huge influx of refugees from the war.

Foreign ministers from Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and Iraq presented reports at at a meeting in Geneva hosted by the UN.

"Syria has been burning for too long," UNHCR chief Antonio Guterres said as he opened the meeting. "This burden is far too heavy to be borne by only the neighbouring countries."

He said the number of people leaving Syria is growing so quickly that it's outstripping the rate at which the UN is funding relief operations.

The BBC reports more than two million Syrians have fled the conflict in their country and many more are displaced internally.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said the arrival of more than 240,000 Syrian refugees since mid-September in Iraqi Kurdistan had created a substantial burden.

The number of refugees might reach 350,000 by the end of 2013, he said.

Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh of Jordan said pressure on resources and public services were reaching unbearable levels.

A BBC correspondent said Lebanon does not have the money, housing, schools or hospitals to cope, while Jordan and Turkey, with some 500,000 refugees each, are believed to have spent at least $US2 billion caring for them.

A $US4.4 billion appeal by the UN for Syrian refugees is only 50% funded so far. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the world had "fallen short" in its response to the crisis. He said it needs to replace words with deeds.