According to the United Nations, Syria’s civil war has now generated the worst refugee crisis since the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Nearly 1.8 million people are now registered as refugees in countries surrounding Syria.
Five thousand people a month are dying in Syria’s civil war, creating the worst refugee crisis since the Rwandan genocide, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, said on Tuesday before the Security Council in New York.
“We have not seen a refugee outflow escalate at such a frightening rate since the Rwandan genocide almost 20 years ago,” Guterres said.
In 1994, more than two million Rwandans fled genocide where radical Hutus killed about 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus within three months.
Nearly 1.8 million people are now registered with the United Nations in countries surrounding Syria, with an average of 6,000 people fleeing each day. As a result of the conflict, the UN estimates about 100,000 people have been killed.
Together with the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos, Guterres called on the Security Council for more international aid and stronger action to deal with the fallout from the two-year-old civil war.
Amos said the international community may have to consider cross border operations to get more aid into Syria where she said four million people are still in need of assistance. She said $3.1 billion was still needed for operations in and around Syria for the rest of the year, but “considerable restraints” have been imposed on aid agencies by the government and rebel groups.
The Syrian government is opposed to any cross-border aid as is Russia, a veto-wielding Security Council member and key backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Calls from Syria’s neighbors
Turkey’s deputy UN ambassador Leven Eler supported the call for cross-border operations. “The council needs to consider alternative forms of aid delivery,” he said adding that the crisis in Syria was turning into “the biggest humanitarian tragedy of the 21st century.”
Lebanon’s UN ambassador Nawaf Salam also urged the Security Council to do more about the refugee crisis.
“Increasing cross border fire and incursions from Syria in Lebanon are threatening the security and stability of my country,” he said.
Lebanon has a population of about four million and Salam said the influx of refugees to his country was the equivalent of 75 million refugees flooding the United States. He estimated the number would grow 20-fold during 2013.
Syria’s UN ambassador Bashar Jaafari disputed the UN death toll as “unprofessionally sourced.”
However, UN Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic said that “rigorous” methods had been used to check the death toll. He said each death was cross checked with at least three sources.
hc/lw (Reuters, AFP, dpa)