António Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. File photo
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GENEVA – The United Nations refugee chief Antonio Guterres said on Saturday that the world has waited far too long to respond to the refugee crisis fueled by wars in Syria and elsewhere.
“Unfortunately only when the poor enter the halls of the rich, do the rich notice that the poor exist,” Guterres told Reuters during the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly.
“Until we had this massive movement into Europe, there was no recognition in the developed world of how serious this crisis was,” said the U.N. high commissioner for refugees.
“If, in the past, we had more massive support to those countries in the developing world that have been receiving them and protecting them, this would not have happened.”
Regarding the situation of the Syrian refugees in neighboring countries, Guterres said: “The refugees are living worse and worse. They’re not allowed to work, the overwhelming majority of them live below the poverty line. It’s more and more difficult for them to have any hope in the future.”
“Without peace in Syria, and without massive support to the neighbouring countries, we risk a massive exodus” of refugees from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.
The U.N. General Assembly’s annual event comes amid increasing influx of Syrian refugees into Europe.
There have now been almost 429,000 Syrian asylum applications in Europe since 2011, but due to the lack of reception facilities many of the most recent arrivals have yet to apply with the flood increasing exponentially.
Reporting by: Lorin Silo