Sharjah United Arab Emirates (Reuters): The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said on Wednesday he had asked the European Union to grant legal entry to more Syrian refugees who are risking their lives trying to reach Europe illegally by sea.
Thousands of migrants, including many Syrians fleeing a three-year civil war, have drowned while crossing the Mediterranean on rickety boats operated by human traffickers.
Speaking on the sidelines of a conference in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, Guterres said he had just come back "from Europe, from the European Council of Justice and Home Affairs, asking them for more Syrian refugees (to) also be able to come legally into Europe."
"It breaks my heart to see Syrian families that have suffered already so much in their country to drown in the Mediterranean at the hands of smugglers," he said.
EU officials were not immediately available to comment on the report.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) last month said that more than 700 people fleeing Africa and the Middle East may have drowned in shipwrecks in the Mediterranean in September, bringing the death toll this year to nearly 3,000.
In the worst incident yet, as many as 500 migrants are believed to have died after traffickers rammed their ship off Malta`s coast in early September, an event that only came to light after two of nine survivors testified on the matter.
Speaking at the conference on the education of refugee children, organised by UNHCR and Sharjah`s The Big Heart refugee support campaign, Guterres said that half of Syria`s 26 million people have been displaced internally or made refugees in neighbouring countries since an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad`s rule began in 2011.
As many as one million of those were in Jordan and an equal number were in Lebanon.
"We need to understand that this is the responsibility of all of the international community and that everybody needs to contribute," Guterres told journalists.
"Not only supporting Jordan, supporting Lebanon and the other countries, but also receiving refugees," he added.
Jordan`s Queen Rania, addressing the conference entitled "Investing in the Future", said that while host countries and the world were focusing on feeding and sheltering displaced children, education was being forgotten.
"There is a clear deficiency in the human giving," Queen Rania said, adding that with only two months left in 2014, the United Nations had received only half of the $3 billion it had estimated were needed to care for displaced Syrians.
"When the dust of war settles, those children will return home and they would need their education to rebuild their lives and rebuild their countries," she said.
"The most valuable gift we can offer to these children is an education that will save them from loss."