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Syria to replace Afghanistan as nation with highest refugee population

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
February 26th, 2014
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

As the civil war in Syria continues on without any sign of abating, that Middle Eastern nation will soon overtake Afghanistan as the country with the world's largest refugee population. Top officials at the United Nations say that the ongoing conflict will leave a generation of children physically and emotionally scarred.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, supplies "are ready to go into areas that have been hard to reach, and into the towns and cities that have been under siege," Ban said. "What we need is guaranteed safe passage for humanitarian supplies along key routes."

Ban told the U.N. General Assembly that the world body will do everything to implement a U.N. Security Council resolution.

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"It is incumbent on the Syrian government and all parties to the conflict to reach these agreements," he said.

Almost half Syria's population, some 9.3 million Syrians need help, the U.N. says. Some 2.4 million of those people have fled the country during the three-year civil war.

"Five years ago Syria was the world's second-largest refugee hosting country. Syrians are now about to replace Afghans as the present biggest refugee population worldwide," U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said.

"It breaks my heart to see this nation that for decades welcomed refugees from other countries, ripped apart and forced into exile itself," Guterres told the U.N. assembly.

The Security Council resolution demands cross-border aid access in Syria, an end to the use of weapons such as barrel bombs in cities. The council also threatens "further steps" in cases of non-compliance.

U.N. diplomats say Syria's ally Russia is unlikely to agree to any action. Western envoys have expressed a strong intent to push for Security Council action if the resolution is ignored.

U.N. human rights Chief Navi Pillay told the General Assembly that barrel bombs have reportedly killed hundreds of people in February alone.

"Barrel bombs landed on more than 12 districts, exploding on residential buildings, marketplaces, a bus station, a school and in close proximity to hospitals. This resulted in inhumane loss of life," Pillay said last December.

"As described ... by one witness after an attack on a bus station, I quote, 'bodies arrived in pieces, there were parts of bodies and parts of vehicles hanging on the power cable,'" Pillay said.

Tens of thousands of people were reportedly held in official and unofficial government detention centers, calling on foreign powers to curb supplies of arms and the inflow of foreign fighters into Syria.

"The ... influx of arms and fighters from abroad diminishes the chance of reaching a political solution," Pillay said.

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