The United Nations is warning nations that have pledged to accept Syrian refugees not to backtrack on their promises in the aftermath of the Paris terror attacks.
Briefing the Security Council on Monday, Stephen O'Brien the UN's humanitarian coordinator, said that recent violence in Syria has forced tens of thousands of people to flee the country. O'Brien said that in the besieged city of Aleppo, "at least 50,000 people are confirmed to have been displaced since early October." He added that the total could in fact be twice that figure.
Russia began bombing opposition positions in Syria on September 30, adding to the exodus. Many of the strikes reportedly hit targets in Aleppo, where regime troops launched an offensive last month. More than 4.2 million people have been driven out of Syria since the start of war in 2011, and a further 6.5 million internally displaced by violence.
As regional governments chafe under the immense burden of housing refugees, and as Syrians find little chance to achieve normalcy or earn a living in Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon, more and more have made the harrowing and often deadly journey toward Europe. According to the International Organization for Migration, more than 750,000 refugees and migrants have arrived by sea in Europe during 2015.
But last Friday's deadly terror attacks in Paris have accelerated calls from many leaders on the continent to staunch the flow of Syrians and other refugees and migrants. On Tuesday, the UN's High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres attempted to push back amid reports that one of the Islamic State-linked Paris attackers may have had a forged Syrian passport.
'It's not the refugee outflows that cause terrorism, it is terrorism, tyranny, and war that create refugees.'
"It's not the refugee outflows that cause terrorism, it is terrorism, tyranny and war that create refugees," said Guterres, speaking at a refugee center in Presovo, Serbia, on the border with Macedonia.
"It is clear that the Daesh strategy is not only to set Europeans against migrants, but within Europe, to se citizen against citizen within communities, community against community within countries, and countries against country in the Union," he added, using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State.
In Geneva, UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said the organization was concerned about the passport found near suicide bomber who blew himself up outside the Stade de France on Friday. Someone carrying that passport — or one identical to it — was recorded as registering in Greece on October 3. But Fleming said details surrounding the document remain unclear.
Federica Mogherini, high representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and security policy and vice-president of the European Commission, noted after a meeting with EU foreign ministers that all of the Paris attackers identified thus far are European nationals — not Syrian refugees.
"Let me underline, the profile of the terrorists so far identified tells us this is an internal threat," Mogherini said. "It is all EU citizens so far. This can change with the hours, but so far it is quite clear it is an issue of internal domestic security."
That hasn't stopped leaders on both side of the Atlantic from pushing anti-refugee legislation. In the span of the business day on Monday, more than 20 US governors said they would reject Syrian asylum seekers. The Obama administration has said it plans to receive 10,000 refugees from Syria in 2016.
In France, right-wing leader Marine le Pen demanded an "immediate halt" to arriving refugees. On Tuesday, Hungary's parliament moved forward with plans to file suit with the EU over a planned quota system that would distribute refugees among EU states.
There is little to no evidence linking refugees to terrorist acts in either Europe or the United States.
"We are deeply disturbed by language that demonizes refugees as a group," said Fleming. "This is dangerous as it will contribute to xenophobia and fear."
"Refugees should not be turned into scapegoats and must not become the secondary victims of these most tragic events," she added.
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