ISTANBUL – The United Nations’ refugee agency will seek additional resources for Turkey, the world’s largest host of refugees, and push for more resettlement, its head said on Saturday, as the civil war in Syria is set to enter its sixth year.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has called for a “massive resettlement” of Syrian and other refugees within Europe to distribute hundreds of thousands of people amid the largest movement of refugees since World War Two.
“We will do whatever we can to help the Turkish government find additional resources for people who are living here under temporary protection to make their lives as good as we can,” Filippo Grandi, who took the helm at the UNHCR this month, told reporters in Istanbul.
“We will work on other aspects as well … We will work on more resettlement opportunities,” he said after meeting refugees at camps near the Syrian border in his first visit as commissioner at the agency.
The UNHCR currently supports Turkey with relief items, field monitoring and technical advice.
About 10 percent of the 2.2 million Syrians sheltering in Turkey stay in camps. The rest struggle to make ends meet in cities around the country, often working illegally for a fraction of the minimum wage.
Grandi praised Turkish plans to award more work permits to some refugees, calling it a “very courageous and important gesture … Work permits will help people live a better life, whether they’ll stay here long or short,” he said.
Otherwise, refugees depend on aid organisations’ handouts or must beg for money, he added.
Only 7,300 work permits have been issued to date, officials said, but the government plans to offer more permits to discourage refugees from crossing illegally into Europe, a minister said this week, amid European Union pressure to reduce the flow of migrants.