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UN, US failed to deliver promised aid to Syrian refugees, expert says

Promises by the United Nations and the United States to take action to help ease the worsening global refugee crisis have not been kept, according to an expert playing a leading role in efforts to provide health services to displaced people.

Zaher Sahloul, president of the humanitarian organization MedGlobal and founder of the American Relief Coalition for Syria, told Arab News that there are more than 26 million refugees around the world who have been forced to leave their country of origin, and about a quarter of them are Syrians who fled the 11-year civil war in their country.

He said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had personally visited Ukrainian refugees since the start of the conflict in their country seven months ago, but had never visited Syrian refugees during a conflict that lasted more than a decade.

Meanwhile, he added, despite President Joe Biden’s promises that his administration would help Syrian refugees, only a small number have actually made it to the United States.

“We saw the UN secretary-general recently in Kyiv,” Sahloul said Wednesday during an appearance on The Ray Hanania Radio Show. “He was photographed greeting the President of Ukraine.

“He never went to the Syrian border. He never met any (Syrian) refugees and made a big deal out of this issue. It is his responsibility to respond to crises and he is not doing his job when it comes to Syria.

“Unfortunately, the global refugee crisis is getting worse every day. Every day you have thousands of refugees fleeing oppression, fleeing the brutalities of war, fleeing climate change, floods and natural disasters and, of course, the deterioration of the economy and governance in the countries from Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia – and now in Europe, with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, where suddenly, within a few months, you have 6 million Ukrainian refugees.

“Right now, there are approximately 26 (to) 29 million refugees in the world. Many of them came from countries that are going through wars, whether wars with other countries or civil wars, including in Syria. There are still 6.5 million Syrian refugees. One in four refugees in the world still comes from Syria, after 11 years of crisis.

Sahloul said US authorities always promised to help Syrian refugees and yet failed to do so. Former President Barack Obama promised aid, but it was delayed for more than five years. When Donald Trump was president, all efforts to help Syrian refugees were derailed by his “ban Muslims” policy.

When Biden took over in 2021, he promised to fix the problem, but that hasn’t happened yet. Permission to enter the United States has been granted to as many as 25,000 refugees, Sahloul said, but in many cases their arrival has been delayed by politics.

“Let’s just put it in perspective,” he said. “President Biden, after a week of war in Ukraine, said we would welcome 100,000 Ukrainian refugees to the United States. It took five years for the Obama administration to welcome the first Syrian refugees.

Sahloul said Obama had ‘humanized’ the perception of refugees and added, ‘The Trump administration had their refugee ban, or ‘Muslim ban’ or whatever you want to call it, where they prevented any resettlement of Syrian refugees and other refugees from the Middle East.

“And then the Biden administration, despite its promises to rectify the policies of the Trump administration, has been slow, is still very slow, to resettle Syrian refugees. So far (the US has) settled 3,500 (refugees).”

During 11 years of war in Syria, 1 million refugees have been killed and 100,000 have “disappeared”, Sahloul said.

“When it comes to the Middle East, we treat them differently than any other country in the world,” he added.

“It took 70 years of war with Israel to have 6.5 million Palestinian refugees. It took six years to have 6.5 million Syrian refugees. It will give you the magnitude of the brutality between the Arab regimes and Israel, which is considered the eternal enemy of everyone in the Middle East,” Sahloul said, highlighting the sheer intensity of the Syrian conflict and its crisis. refugees.

In total, around 89 million people worldwide are “displaced” after being forced from their homes, he added. Some may stay in their own country while others become refugees in other countries.

“In this week of the United Nations General Assembly, there are strong voices in support of Syrian refugees in general, including the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, although there are question marks about his politics and policies and things like that,” Sahloul said. .

“One of the best speeches on refugees came from the Emir of Qatar; he talked about the moral responsibility of the UN and the fact that we forgot Syria and we forgot the Syrian refugees. It was a very inspiring speech.

“Unfortunately, the United Nations and other countries are not treating the root cause of the problems, they are treating the symptoms with band-aids.”

Hosted on the US Arab Radio Network and sponsored by Arab News, The Ray Hanania Radio Show airs live every Wednesday at 5:00 p.m. EST in Detroit on WNZK AM 690 and Washington DC on WDMV AM 700, and rebroadcasts in Chicago on Thursday at noon. CST on WNWI AM 1080.

You can listen to the radio show’s podcast by visiting ArabNews.com/rayradioshow.

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