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UN calls for countries to resettle 180,000 Syrian refugees

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By Joanna Gill  with AFP, Reuters, UNHCR, Amnesty International
UN calls for countries to resettle 180,000 Syrian refugees

The UN is calling on countries to take on 180,000 Syrian refugees. The figure represents just five percent of the projected refugee population by the end of 2015.

More than 30 humanitarian organisations launched the appeal ahead of a crisis conference in Geneva on Tuesday.

At least 3.2 million people have fled Syria since the civil war began in 2011 and neighbouring countries are feeling the strain.

Turkey and Lebanon each host one million refugees. Amnesty International blasted Gulf countries who have failed a resettle a single Syrian refugee.

“Humanitarian needs in the world are growing and are growing exponentially. And obviously the funds available to respond to them are not growing, are not growing at the same path. Not only we are having less money to more need, but we are having more restricted money in the ways we can use it to respond to these needs,” explained Antonio Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Faced with a funding shortage, the UN refugee agency is prioritising the most vulnerable. The World Food programme has been==forced to cut food vouchers==, meaning up to 1.7 million Syrians living in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan now face starvation.

“Vouchers are essential and if they are gone it means that there is no refuge. How can we survive? There are no jobs,” said Ameen in the Zaatari camp in Jordan.

With just three weeks before the end of the year, the UN has received only 53% of the 3 billion euros they called for in order to run Syrian humanitarian operations.

Aid fatigue could prove fatal for Syrian refugees as temperatures drop. Some families are facing their fourth winter in makeshift homes.

“(In these conditions) we can only keep this up for a bit. I’ll return to my country. If I get killed by a bomb there, I would die as a martyr. It’s better than dying of hunger here,” said one refugee at a camp in Lebanon.

Not only do refugees face the risk of starvation and cold weather, there is rising tensions among the communities they live alongside. On Sunday, Lebanese gunmen opened fire and set tents alight in camps in the north of the country, injuring two refugees. The country has the highest per capita refugee concentration in the world.

UK charities made a special appeal to the government to take on 10,000 refugees, pointing out that the country has accepted only 90 refugees to date. The government said it planned to resettle several hundred Syrians over three years.