Geneva / WAM
The United Arab Emirates has said that it will support the voluntary, safe, and dignified return of Syrians to their homeland, once the foundations for peace has been laid in Syria.
â€œBut until that day comes, the UAE will continue to stress the importance of meeting the needs of refugees as well as the needs of host communities through providing assistance,â€ said Dr. Maytha bint Salem Al Shamsi, Minister of State in her speech at a high-level meeting of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva.
She said that the current situation in Syria is a humanitarian issue affecting the entire world, pointing to the existence of more than 4.8 million Syrian refugees and 6.5 million displaced persons inside Syria.
She warned that the Syrian refugee crisis should not be allowed to worsen to become similar to the Palestinian one where host countries housed refugees for decades.
Dr. Al Shamsi also reiterated the UAEâ€™s strong commitment in support of the Syrian people, saying that in 2012, the UAE was one of the leading countries that provided humanitarian assistance for Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt, and displaced persons inside Syria, providing more than US$600 million in last five years, and pledging to provide another $137 million in the future.
The Minister explained that the UAEâ€™s support includes the provision of food, medicines, water, sanitation, education, and shelter, as well as building and managing refugee camps, like the one in Jordan which has a capacity to shelter 10,000 people.
Dr. Al Shamsi also pointed out that the UAE has established a field hospital in the Mafraq area in Jordan, which provides health services to approximately 800 people daily, and built a camp in northern Iraq to house around 4,000 Syrian refugees and provide them with similar services.
Al Shamsi went on to say that in addition to direct support for Syrian refugees in host Arab countries and within Syria, the UAE government has welcomed more than 100,000 Syrian citizens, and provided them with residence permits, bringing the total number of Syrian residents in the country to 250,000, including 17,000 Syrian children who were enrolled in UAE schools since the outbreak of the war.
She added that the UAE Government has demonstrated great sympathy for those affected by the crisis, and allowed thousands of Syrians with expired visas and passports to renew their documents to enable them to remain as residents in the country following the usual legitimate channels.