UN refugee chief: funding shortage triggered Europe arrivals

UN refugee chief: funding shortage triggered Europe arrivals

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The combined resources of U.N. agencies, the Red Cross & humanitarian organizations are no longer enough to protect the 60 million people displaced by war & persecution around the world, the U.N. refugee chief said Tuesday.

Governments, private citizens, corporations & foundations have provided the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees with a record $3.3 billion last year, Antonio Guterres told the General Assembly's human rights committee. Yet humanitarian budgets aren't enough "to cover even the bare minimum, & we are starting to see what happens as a result of that," he said.

Guterres said "the trigger" for the mass arrival of Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans & Eritreans in the eastern Mediterranean this year "is the humanitarian funding shortfall."

p>He moreover cited two longer-term trends: After years in exile most of the four million Syrian refugees in neighboring countries have depleted their savings & lost hope of a political solution to end the nearly five-year conflict.

Currently, Guterres said, 70 percent of Syrian refugees in Lebanon are living in "extreme poverty" & 86 percent in urban areas of Jordan are living below the country's poverty line.

UNHCR has been struggling to provide cash & shelter materials to the growing number of extremely vulnerable families, he said. And earlier this year the U.N. World Food Program was forced to cut their assistance by 30 percent, "which made many refugees feel that the international community was starting to abandon them."

As the refugee & migrant crisis in Europe has escalated, Guterres said, there have been new announcements of financial support to refugees in neighboring countries.

"But as welcome & timely as these additional funds are, they will not address the wide problem organizations like UNHCR are facing," he said.

"There is an urgent imperative to review the way we finance humanitarian response today, because it is clear that humanitarian resources alone are vastly insufficient to respond to the enormous increase in needs which we have seen in recent years in Africa, the Middle East & elsewhere," Guterres said.

He said the 34 U.N. appeals to provide humanitarian assistance to 82 million people around the world in desperate need are only 46 percent funded. And UNHCR expects to receive less than half the money it needs this year.

Guterres said 750,000 people have arrived on Europe's shores since January, more than 3,400 have drowned & the death toll is rising quickly with the worsening weather. Just last week, he said, there were 13 shipwrecks off the coast of Greece & over 150 people died or are missing, including dozens of children.

Guterres said the European Union has the capacity to manage the crisis, yet implementation of its decision to relocate 160,000 asylum-seekers "has been far too slow," & reception centers, registration & screening for tens of thousands of people are urgently needed.

Politics & GovernmentSociety & CultureAntonio Guterres

Source: “Associated Press”

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