“The situation in Syria and its neighbouring countries is more acute than the worst forecasts predicted at the turn of the year. We are facing the most serious refugee crisis since the Second World War,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs Espen Barth Eide during a visit to the border area between Jordan and Syria today.
“The pressure caused by the refugees and ethnic divides seen in the war in Syria are fuelling concerns that the conflict could spread to neighbouring countries,” Mr Eide said.
The humanitarian situation inside Syria is deteriorating steadily. After two years of civil war, public services have ceased to function in large parts of the country and much of the country’s infrastructure has been destroyed. According to the UN, more than 1.6 million people have fled Syria. If the current trend continues, the number of refugees could have risen to 3.5 million by the end of 2013. In addition there are now an estimated 4.25 million internally displaced persons inside Syria itself.
“International efforts to bring an end to the war in Syria must continue. Unfortunately there are few encouraging signs in the work being done to find a political solution to the conflict. This was emphasised in my talks with UN Special Representative for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi. Nevertheless, our humanitarian efforts must continue unabated. The need for assistance is great both in and outside Syria,” Mr Eide said.
Foreign Minister Eide visited Jordan on Thursday together with UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres, in connection with the celebration of World Refugee Day. During the visit, Mr Eide had talks with Prime Minister of Jordan Abdullah Ensour, among others. Mr Eide also visited refugees from Syria in the border area between Jordan and Syria.
“In my talks in Jordan today, I have praised the Jordanian authorities for the help they have provided to Syrian refugees. At the same time it is crucial that help reaches all refugees and not only those living in refugee camps. It is also vital that the Jordanian authorities, together with the UN and other aid organisations, ensure the necessary level of security,” Mr Eide said.
Due to the situation in and around Syria, the UN has launched its largest ever emergency appeal. The Government has decided to contribute NOK 150 million to the appeal. This total will be made up of the extraordinary allocation of NOK 100 million made in May and the entire reserve of NOK 50 million of the Foreign Ministry’s humanitarian budget.
“In our talks, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees emphasised just how extensive the refugee crisis is, and the huge need for aid that is still unmet. It is vital that the international community now assists Jordan and other neighbouring countries in dealing with the flow of refugees from Syria. The UN plays an important coordinating role here,” Mr Eide said.
Including this most recent contribution, Norway has allocated a total of NOK 360 million to the crisis in Syria in 2013, and a total of NOK 575 million since the conflict started in spring 2011. The Government allocated NOK 210 million to UN humanitarian appeals for Syria in the first half of 2013.