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Sun 25 Sep 2016 01:05 PM

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UAE to welcome 15,000 Syrian refugees in next five years

International cooperation minister urges UN to do more to tackle plight of refugees

UAE to welcome 15,000 Syrian refugees in next five years
Image for illustrative purpose only. (Khalil Mazraawi/AFP/Getty Images)

The UAE has announced plans to host 15,000 Syrian refugees within the next five years to help address the crisis.

Reem bint Ibrahim Al Hashemi, minister of state for international cooperation, revealed the UAE’s intention at the Leaders’ Summit on Refugees at the United Nations headquarters on Tuesday, according to state news agency WAM.

She reportedly told the summit: “Five years ago, before the Syrian crisis erupted, 115,000 Syrians lived and worked in the UAE, joining more than 200 different nationalities and ethnicities that make up the tapestry of our diverse society and whose active and significant contributions are a clear rebuttal to the global wave of xenophobia.

“Since then, we have welcomed more than 123,000 Syrians.”

Over the last five years, Al Hashemi said, the UAE has provided more than $750 million to support Syrian refugees, mainly in neighbouring countries facing considerable pressure.

Now, the UAE wants to do more to assist Syrians displaced by the current crisis affecting their country.

“The UAE believes that we must not just meet the basic needs of refugees, but we also maintain their dignity and offer hope for their future,” WAM quoted her as saying.

“In refugee camps that the UAE has set up in Jordan, Northern Iraq, even in Greece, we provide the basic life-saving support such as shelter, food, basic health, water, and sanitation.

“We are also looking to address often neglected services like rehabilitation, education in emergencies, cash for food and work, vocational training, and care for those with mental illnesses.

“Ultimately, we must offer a source of hope for displaced persons that allows them to maintain dignity, return home, reintegrate themselves into their societies and rebuild their countries and their lives.”

The UAE has contributed more than 1 percent of its gross national income (GNI) annually to foreign aid over the last three years, putting it among the top donors globally, said Al Hashemi, but she called on all nations to unite to tackle the plight of displaced persons.

“We meet at a critical time,” she said. “The number of refugees and displaced persons is the largest in modern history.

“This crisis is being driven by a series of interlinked conflicts, fuelled by extremism that crosses borders and transcends geographies.

“However, crisis of refugees and displaced persons, is not confined to the Middle East, it is a global phenomenon that requires the attention of the entire international community.”

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