Mohammad Zaatari/AP

'New level of hopelessness' for Syrian refugees

Report by International Rescue Committee and the Norwegian Refugee Council calls on nations outside region to step up

The plight of people fleeing Syria's civil war has reached "a new level of hopelessness" as overstretched neighbors make it more difficult to escape and developed countries like the United States resettle a tiny number of refugees, according to a new report. Less than 2 percent have been given a new home.

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The report released Wednesday by the International Rescue Committee and the Norwegian Refugee Council says the number of refugees from Syria has dropped sharply.

"We are witnessing a total collapse of international solidarity with millions of Syrian civilians," Norwegian Refugee Council Secretary General Jan Egeland said in a statement.

Syria's neighbors, including Lebanon and Jordan, have warned they were at the breaking point. Tiny Lebanon last month began rejecting all but "exceptional" refugee cases.

The number of refugees able to flee their country's civil war fell 88 percent in October compared with the 2013 monthly average, to 18,453 people from over 150,000, the report said.

"Humanitarian organizations have repeatedly warned that the capacities of the host communities have been stretched to the limits and argued for better international burden-sharing," said Egeland.

The report praises Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq, which have taken in more than three million Syrian since the conflict began in 2011, while countries outside the region have agreed to accept around 50,000, or less than 2 percent of the total refugee population.

"What we are witnessing now are the results of our failure to deliver the necessary support to the region," said Egeland.

In October, Lebanon, which has the highest per capita concentration of refugees in the world at one in four residents, said it could not cope with more than one million Syrians and has asked for funds to help look after them.

Resentment against Syrians has grown with many complaining that refugees are taking jobs, driving down wages, overloading schools and hospitals and even worsening an electricity shortage, which pre-dates the war in Syria.

The NGOs called on countries outside the region to provide financial support to Syria’s neighbors and take in at least five percent of the total Syrian refugee population.

European countries and the U.S. have been extremely reluctant to accept Syria's refugees.

The United States had resettled just 166 refugees from Syria by the end of September, the new report says. While the U.S. is the world's largest resettlement country, it has not yet said how many Syrian refugees it will accept.

The U.S. "needs to do more, and quickly," the report says.

So far, France has said it will resettle just 500 refugees and Britain a few hundred, the report adds.

The NGOs are asking that developed countries move quickly to make sure that at least 5 percent of Syria's refugees are able to "access protection," including resettlement, outside the region.

So far, countries outside the region have agreed to take in just 50,000 refugees, or less than 2 percent, the report says.

Al Jazeera with wire services

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