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No US decision to cut aid to Syrian refugees — UNHCR chief

By Ana V. Ibáñez Prieto - Feb 12,2018 - Last updated at Feb 12,2018

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi visits the Zaatari refugee camp on Monday (Photo by Ana Ibáñez Prieto)

ZAATARI REFUGEE CAMP — The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi on Sunday said that there has not been any decision whatsoever to cut the aid to UNHCR or any other organisation providing support to the Syrian refugees in Jordan.

Speaking at a press conference at Zaatari refugee camp, Grandi lamented Washington’s decision to reduce assistance to UNRWA.

“We [UNHCR] hope for the decision to cut the aid to UNRWA to be halted soon, as Jordan is the country hosting the largest number of Palestinian refugees.” 

The commissioner initiated on Sunday a three-day visit to Jordan as part of a broader mission including Lebanon, Turkey and Syria, aimed at meeting with government officials and refugee families across the region. 

“This is my third visit to Jordan and it is not by chance that the Kingdom is my first stop in this regional tour,” the commissioner said during a press conference held on Monday, noting that “Jordan has been a home for refugees for over 70 years now, becoming an example to the world in its hospitality and its willingness to grant protection to the most vulnerable.”

Grandi visited the Zaatari refugee camp on Monday, where he toured the Zaatari Office for Employment and the Solar Plant accompanied by UNHCR Representative in Jordan Stefano Severe and UNHCR Head of Communications Melissa Fleming.

“The Solar Power Plant  installed at the camp is a proof of the space that Jordan allocates for technology in its humanitarian response,” the commissioner said during the visit, underlining “the importance of finding new ways to respond to the crisis in the current circumstances.” 

Regarding the Zaatari Office for Employment, Grandi commended Jordan’s “efforts to integrate refugees in the community,” noting that “thanks to this initiative, thousands of refugees are able to get work permits and displace in and out of the refugee camp on a daily basis.”

Looking forward to the upcoming weeks on the regional tour, the commissioner highlighted that the date of his entry in Syria will mark the commencement of the 8th year in conflict, expressing that “the sprawling camp [Zaatari] that is now behind me shows the dimensions that this war is reaching, as we witness an extended failure on the political actions that the concerned states are taking to find solutions to this conflict.” 

“Countries like Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq and Egypt are making big efforts to support the refugees during the ongoing crisis and they shall not be forgotten by the international community,” Grandi continued, calling on donors “to pledge funds to these countries and consider the responsibility that the host communities are taking.” 

Responding to queries over the assistance to Syrians in the Bern — a strip of no-man’s land on the Syrian border — Grandi stressed that “the individuals stranded in this area are internally displaced within Syria, and therefore, it is the Syrian government who holds responsibility for them,” adding that “we [UNHCR] acknowledge that their control over the situation is limited, and we will put all of our energy along with the concerned stakeholders to find a solution for them.”

Concluding his visit, the commissioner noted that “as the Syrian conflict develops, more and more refugees will continue to escape a country with closed borders,...all countries must be accessible to humanitarian organisations without exception.” 

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