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“Loss of hope” sparks human tsunami

GENEVA: The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) says after five years of war, loss of hope and appalling living conditions are the major reasons for the numbers of Syrian refugees now seeking asylum in Europe.

Around four million Syrians are now refugees in Jordan, Iraq, Egypt and the Lebanon. Turkey has taken in an estimated three million. Since 2011, almost 429,000 refugees have applied for asylum in Europe. This year, Germany expects to take 800,000.

Canadian red crossTo provide temporary help for the sudden arrival of so many people, the Canadian, American and German Red Cross organizations have coordinated the delivery of thousands of camp beds weighing a total 120 tonnes via Lufthansa and Cargojet.

"I have just returned from visiting several refugee camps in Germany where I saw first hand the resources urgently needed to support the large influx of refugees in recent days and those that will continue in the coming months," said Conrad Sauvé, president and CEO of the Canadian Red Cross. "These items will provide thousands of families with comfort and warmth, however the situation is intensifying and more aid is desperately needed."

Amin Awad, director of the UNHCR bureau for the Middle East and North Africa, said the reason for Europe's sudden refugee crisis is horrible living conditions and no work in Syria's four neighboring countries: "When people don't have proper shelter and are living on 45 cents a day of course they want to move. Refugees are having to adopt negative survival strategies – like child labor, dropping out of school, begging and survival sex," said Awad, who is also the regional UNHCR refugee coordinator for the country.

Many refugees in Jordan have told the UNHCR that cuts in World Food Programme food aid last winter were the last straw in their decision to leave the country. Shrinking humanitarian aid, including support for child education, is cited by refugees in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt as a cause of desperation and driver of onward movement.

"Syria is burning; towns are destroyed and that's why people are on the move, that's why we have an avalanche, a tsunami of people on the move towards Europe... As long as there's no resolution in Syria and no improved conditions in neighboring countries, people will move," Awad added.

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