BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) – Argentina's cabinet chief said on Friday that the South American nation is willing to welcome more Syrian refugees fleeing their country's civil war.
Anibal Fernandez said that the government eased the entrance of Syrians through a program begun last year, but he didn't specify how many of the refugees had arrived so far. He said the Syrians will be welcomed through the country's tradition of helping out during humanitarian crises.
"When you do something like this, it's a very honest act that springs from affection and solidarity," Fernandez said.
He said he had been troubled this week by the image of a dead 3-year-old Syrian boy on a Turkish beach. The photograph has drawn the world's attention to a wave of migration fueled by war and deprivation.
Since civil war broke out in their country in 2011, more than 4 million Syrians have sought refuge abroad, the largest number from any crisis in almost 25 years, the United Nations has said.
Juan Pablo Terminiello, legal associate at Argentina's office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, estimates that the South American country so far has welcomed less than 100 Syrian refugees. Leaders of the Syrian-Lebanese community, with an estimated 4 million people in Argentina, have asked authorities to speed up procedures so more of the refugees can enter the country.
Neighboring Uruguay welcomed 42 Syrian refugees who arrived in October 2014. Under former President Jose Mujica, Uruguay initially agreed to receive a total of 120 Syrian refugees.
Current Uruguayan Foreign Minister Rodolfo Nin Novoa has said that a second group of seven families will arrive later this year. He has rejected criticism by some Uruguayans who believe their country should not accept more refugees.