Keep borders open for Syrian refugees, says UNHCR

Geneva, July 17 (IANS) The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres has urged the countries against restricting cross-border access for Syrian refugees.

"I reiterate my call to all states, in the region and further afield, to keep borders open and receive all Syrians who seek protection," reported Xinhua citing Guterres telling a meeting of the UN Security Council Tuesday via video link from Geneva.

Guterres said that access to safety in the region was becoming more difficult for people trying to flee, joining the almost 1.8 million Syrian refugees known to UNHCR in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt.

He noted that sectarian clashes had intensified in Iraq, and the country has shut its borders, slowing arrivals to a trickle. Iraq currently hosts more than 160,000 Syrian refugees.

In Egypt, where the UN Refugee Agency has registered some 90,000 Syrian refugees, a number of passenger flights from Syria were turned back last week, following a decision to impose visa requirements and security clearance for Syrians.

"While I fully understand the challenges Egypt is currently facing, I do hope that the country will continue to extend its traditional hospitality to Syrian refugees, as it has done since the beginning of the conflict," Guterres said.

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