DAMASCUS: UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) chief Antonio Guterres announced on Friday the body has referred 100,000 Iraqi refugees in the Middle East for resettlement in third countries since 2007.
"100,000 submissions of Iraqi refugees is a tremendous achievement. Many have been living in limbo for years," he said at the start of a three-day visit to Syria, which says it hosts one million refugees, mostly from Iraq.
Of the 100,000 submissions of Iraqi refugees over the past three years, 52,173 people left the Middle East up to May 2010, the UNHCR said in a statement. In 2007, 3,500 Iraqis departed for third countries from the region.
"Lengthy security checks and the time it has taken for state processing mechanisms to be established have led to considerable delays in the departure of refugees to their new homes," it said.
Guterres called on countries "to facilitate the speedy departure of refugees they have accepted for resettlement."
The acceptance rate by resettlement countries of UNHCR’s referrals now stands at 80 percent, of which nearly 76 percent have been accepted by the United States, the UNHCR said.
The UN agency said that around 1.8 million Iraqis are currently seeking refuge in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Turkey.
Guterres was in Syria to mark World Refugee Day on Sunday, with the event being hosted in the Middle East for the first time.
Later on Friday, he was to take part in an event hosted in Washington by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton via a live video feed from Al-Hassakeh, a Syrian province on the border with Iraq.