U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres has hailed Turkey’s efforts in aid of Syrian and Iraqi refugees.
“Turkey is today the largest refugee hosting country in the world and has a very generous policy by opening borders and providing assistances and protection,” Guterres said Saturday.
His remarks came at a press conference with UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie in southern Turkish province of Mardin where they visited Syrian and Iraqi refugees on the occasion of the June 20 World Refugee Day.
The UNHCR chief said Turkey’s help for the refugees was exemplary in a world where borders were closed, walls were erected and people were not treated properly.
“Turkey has done these assistances with very little international support,” he said, expressing his appreciation and gratitude to Turkish authorities and people.
In his remarks, Guterres called the global refugee crisis “dramatic” and said the international community failed twice on the matter.
“First, it was not able to prevent conflicts or timely solve them and the second, it is not providing resources necessary to assist the refugees,” he said.
Almost 60 million people were displaced in 2014 by persecution and conflict, and a large part of the world was in “a mess”, he said.
“Anyone can start a conflict anywhere without any risk of accountability,” he said.
Angelina Jolie, for her part, thanked Turkey, which she said has opened its doors to 1.8 million displaced Syrians and Iraqis over the last four years.
The Hollywood star said it was “high time” humanity respected refugee sufferings and held their values in high esteem, rather than brushing them off as trouble.
“We must protect them, and invest in them. They are not a problem. They are part of the solution to this global crisis. They are the potential for the rebuilding and restabilization of countries.”
“I plead to the international community and leaders of the world to recognize what this moment in mass human displacement means,” she said.
Jolie called on the U.N. Security Council to send their officials to Turkey and the region neighboring Syria to observe the ramifications of the crisis on the ground.
“Witness this crisis for yourself. See that it simply cannot go on. And that it is past time for a credible plan to reach a political solution to end the conflict,” she said.
Both U.N. officials celebrated the holy fasting month of Ramadan for Muslims.
Ahead of the press conference, Guterres and Jolie were received by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a hotel in Mardin province.
There are 25 camps hosting Syrians in Turkey, 16 of which are container cities and the remaining nine consist of tents.
Turkey shares a 900-kilometer border with Syria and has sheltered more than 1.7 million Syrians, according to the U.N., with more arriving because of ongoing bloodshed in the war-torn country.
According to government figures, the country has spent more than $6 billion so far for refugees while the international community’s help has amounted to $300 million.