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Call for help for Syrian refugees

A Washington-based refugee advocacy group called on the world Monday to help Syrians who have fled their country's turmoil, saying they are stretching the meager resources of Jordan and Lebanon.

Since the Syrian uprising began in March 2011, Jordan has taken in more than 110,000 refugees, and Lebanon 26,000, according to official figures. In Jordan, many refugees are being hosted in private homes, with Jordanian families providing them food and shelter.

Refugees International warned in a written statement that the Syrian refugee crisis "may threaten the political stability of both Lebanon and Jordan, and the international community must scale up humanitarian and development aid to keep both countries on a firm footing."

With their "economies weak and their politics strained, neither country is well positioned to accept thousands of poor, vulnerable Syrians — and yet they must, and they have," the group said.

Both Jordan and Lebanon have hosted waves of Iraqi refugees from the last 10 years, and Palestinians from the last 60.

Jordanian officials complain in private that the Syrian refugees are exhausting social and health care services and taxing the desert country's sparse water resources. The officials say they especially fear severe water shortages during the dry summer season.

RI president Michel Gabaudan said considering the pressure they are under domestically, with high unemployment and a thinning social safety net, Lebanon and Jordan "have made real efforts to accommodate Syrian refugees."

But he added that with thousands of refugees present, the two nations' "social services are being stretched to the limit."

"Unless the West and other donors step in to fill these gaps, their generosity could soon evaporate under domestic political and economic pressure," he added.

He said that asking the families who are hosting refugees "to spend their own dwindling resources on refugees is untenable and could also spark conflict if aid agencies do not step in."

Gabaudan is heading an RI team to Jordan to evaluate the regional response to Syrian displacement.

The Syrian uprising has begun with mostly peaceful protests calling for change, but turned into an increasingly militarized conflict. World powers have backed a peace plan that was put forward by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, but the bloodshed has not stopped.

Russia and China have provided a layer of diplomatic protection for Syria. On Monday, China warned that any outside intervention would bring greater suffering to the Syrian people.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said all sides should implement Annan's proposals and U.N. resolutions on Syria. He said that was the best way to end the violence that activist groups say has killed as many as 13,000 people.

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On the web:

Refugees International www.refugeesinternational.org