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France - Syria - UN

France must accept more Syrian refugees, UNHCR

Syrian refugees in Turkey
Syrian refugees in Turkey Reuters/Umit Bektas

France should take in more Syrian refugees, the UN's refugee agency, UNHCR, said Tuesday. As President François Hollande prepared to appeal to the UN to take action against Bashar al-Assad's regime, UNHCR representative Philippe Leclerc pointed out that only 850 Syrians have been able even to apply for asylum in France this year.

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Over two million Syrians have fled the war there and 97 per cent of them are in neighbouring Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan.

The UNHCR in June appealed to European countries to take in 10,000 Syrians and Germany committed itself to taking in 10,000, while Austria and Norway agreed to take 500 each.

France, which has taken a tough line on the Syrian conflict, recently announced that it would accept more families but the proposal appears to have been caught up in bureaucracy, according to Leclerc.

He recognised that, with France unable to place half of its 61,000 asylum-seekers in reception centres, that its system "is not working well" but argued that its problems "bear no relation" to those of Syria's neighbours.

The UNHCR wants France to provide more opportunities to legally enter its territory, "so that Syrian refugees don't try to cross the Mediterranean Sea or the Greece-Turkey border at the risk of their lives", Leclerc said at a press conference Tuesday.

Consulates in Amman, Beirut, Ankara and Istanbul should be beefed up so that more visas can be issued, he said.

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