UN chief in plea for more international help to ease suffering in Syria

Filippo Grandi calls for assistance for some of the millions of displaced people returning home

Italian United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi. AFP
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The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has called for additional humanitarian assistance in Syria, especially for displaced people returning to their homes.

Filippo Grandi said those returning needed schools, hospitals and infrastructure.

“Families spoke of years of suffering and they are exhausted,” Mr Grandi said during a two-day visit to Syria.

A camp for internally displaced people in the town of Maarrat Misrin in Syria. AFP

Returning people needed to make a living, he said. “This is a humanitarian imperative."

As part of its work to help find solutions to displacement, the UN agency aims to increase the self-reliance of refugees and displaced people to reduce their dependency on assistance.

“Periods that follow conflicts are always extremely complex,” Mr Grandi said during a visit to Homs governorate, an area of fierce battles and a three-year siege between opposition fighters and government forces between 2011 and 2015.

Homs, Syria’s third-largest city before the conflict, was an early centre of the popular uprising against President Bashar Al Assad in 2011 that led to the civil war in which hundreds of thousands of people have been killed. The Syrian government restored full control on the city on 2017.

More than 13 million Syrians have been displaced in the past 10 years.

Around 6.7 million are displaced inside the country and 5.5 million are hosted in five neighbouring countries, UNHCR said.

Economic crises in the region, compounded by the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, a sharp devaluation of local currencies and rising prices have created difficult challenges for those displaced and stretched their ability to cope to the limit.

During his visit, Mr Grandi met Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad and Minister of Local Administration and Environment Hussein Makhlouf to discuss issues related to return, including how to address refugees’ concerns, the UNHCR said.

“These are Syrian nationals and it’s the government’s responsibility to ensure their security,” the High Commissioner said.

“We are engaging with the government to highlight refugees’ concerns such as their safety, property rights and livelihoods. We also need the international community to help as well."

Updated: October 19, 2021, 11:19 AM