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UNHCR: Iraqi refugees in "critical need"

UNHCR said that some 190,000 Iraqi refugees are in dire need of assistance

AFP , Wednesday 26 Jan 2011
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The head of the UN's refugee agency on Wednesday appealed for 280 million dollars to help some 190,000 Iraqi refugees, the majority of them in Lebanon and Syria.

"I appeal to donor governments to recognise the critical needs of Iraqi refugees, particularly those who are becoming more vulnerable by the day," said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres.

The agency said in a statement that new funding would target "over 190,000 Iraqi refugees registered with the UNHCR in the region; the majority live in Syria and Jordan."

The rest are mainly in the Middle East, including six Gulf states and Iran, as well as Egypt, Jordan and Turkey.

More than a third of the registered refugees are considered to be vulnerable, according to the UNHCR.

In Lebanon and Syria, it found that many Iraqi refugees have trouble finding jobs since they fled three years ago, plunging them into poverty and forcing their children to leave school to find casual work.

"When an Iraqi child goes to school rather than work, you are investing in the future of Iraq," said Guterres, who also acknowledged the burden on host countries.

More than 89,000 Iraqis have returned home in the past three years, according to the UNHCR, but the rate of return has slowed recently and new asylum-seekers are being registered in neighbouring countries.

Since 2007, more than 60,000 Iraqi refugees have been resettled in third countries where they found new homes. The UNHCR estimates that another 60,000 are in need of resettlement to relieve the burden on their current hosts.

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