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Austria pledges to house 1500 Syrian refugees

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Austria pledges to house 1500 Syrian refugees
Syrian refugees use wheelbarrows as makeshift baby carriages in Za'atari refugee camp, near the Syrian border in northern Jordan. Photo: UNHCR
23:45 CEST+02:00
At a high level meeting in Geneva on Friday, Austria pledged to resettle 1500 Syrian refugees over the next year.

At the meeting for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva, the displacement of Syrian refugees has been high on the agenda.

The Swedish delegation has been leading an international working group with the task of finding homes for an estimated 34,000 Syrian asylum seekers, Sveriges Radio reports.  It cited Austria in particular as pledging to accept 1500 Syrian asylum seekers over the next 12 months, slightly more than Sweden's commitment of 1200.

In the past, Sweden has accepted a disproportionately larger number of refugees from the region than other EU countries, consisting of nearly 20% of the EU's total asylum seekers in 2013.

Following talks between Swedish Migration Minister Tobias Billström and dozens of other senior politicians, a total of 21 countries around the world have agreed to follow Sweden's lead in tackling the issue. 

New offers of resettlement or humanitarian admissions for Syrian refugees were pledged by Belgium, Ireland, Switzerland and Uruguay. In all, 565 new places were announced during a high-level meeting of 42 countries, taking the total number of offers received since mid-2013 to more than 34,700 places. In addition, the United States has pledged open-ended resettlement numbers.

The majority of offers to date come from European states, with Germany having offered over half the global total. In all 22 countries have offered places for Syrian refugees so far.

High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said: "I hope this momentum continues over the coming months. Resettlement and other humanitarian admission programmes are critical and can be life-saving for the victims of the conflict in Syria. This represents another expression of solidarity with the host countries and the communities that have been suffering the impact of this terrible conflict on their economy and society."

Co-chair of the meeting, Billström said: "It is important that more states join UNHCR's resettlement and other forms of admission programmes. Providing resettlement for the most vulnerable Syrian refugees also clearly demonstrates our solidarity with the host governments in the region, as well as with the people who are fleeing and who are in need of our immediate protection."

UNHCR has asked States to provide 30,000 resettlement and humanitarian admissions places for Syrian refugees in 2013 and 2014. A further 100,000 places are being sought for 2015 and 2016.

UNHCR continues to urge States to consider all solutions that can provide secure, urgent and effective protection for Syrian refugees in need. UNHCR anticipates that in the coming years, there will be increasing numbers of vulnerable Syrian refugees who will be in need.

States are also being encouraged to offer programmes to complement resettlement for Syrians, for example allowing relatives to join family members, scholarships for Syrian students, or medical evacuations for refugees with serious health conditions.

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