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UN says mass exodus from Syria is driving up number of stateless children

The mass exodus from Syria is driving up the number of stateless children, the United Nations has said. The Red Cross has called for more funds to tackle the migrant crisis.

The mass exodus from war-torn Syria and other crisis areas is driving up the number of stateless children, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

The UN believes that "at least 70,000 stateless children are born each year" - or one about every 10 minutes - in the 20 countries hosting the largest stateless populations.

In Syria, children can only legally require citizenship through their fathers, which poses problems for many families which have been separated by emigration. In addition, the migrants also lack marriage or birth certificates.

Statelessness can lead to problems with basic medical care, receiving vaccination, or finding a job, the UN said.

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) demanded that countries scrap the laws that forbid mothers from passing on citizenship. The agency also urged states to provide citizenship to refugee children if they would otherwise be stateless.

Red Cross needs funds

The head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) visited Athens on Tuesday, and announced that his organization was raising 11,6 million euro ($13 million) to tackle the migrant crisis in Greece.

Elhadj As Sy said over 200,000 refugees sailed to Greece in October aiming to reach the EU before winter sets in. "What we are facing now is much more than what was expected. That is why everybody is overwhelmed," he said.

The Red Cross organizations in Norway, Spain and Britain have already donated one third of the sum, with the IFRC aiming to finish raising the funds by April 2016.

"We know what is needed, and we know how to respond. The question is only the scale," Sy added.

Price of Europe

The IFRC Secretary General also called for the easing of travel restrictions and allowing migrants to travel legally. "Because if you do it legally, you take away the illegal business from the traffickers and then the smugglers. And then people would feel safer and it would be better organized," Sy said.

The refugees are paying up to 1,400 euros for a short boat trip from the Turkish coast to one of the Greek islands, aid activists say. In comparison, tourists pay some 25 euro for a round trip from Turkey to the island of Lesbos.

Athens has also repeatedly urged easing of regulations.

Volunteers at frontlines

The IFRC chief also expressed his "respect" for the volunteers helping the refugees on the ground and pointing out problems with their care. "Some of them did not even wait for us, to go out and help," Sy said. "We listen to them, we hear their cry."

Around 700,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean in 2015, most of them continuing their journey over Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary towards the richer EU countries. Since Budapest closed off its borders in September, migrants on the so-called Balkan route were forced to take a detour over Croatia and Slovenia.

Shelter from winter

The unprecedented influx of migrants created a series of bottlenecks across Eastern Europe, often leaving refugees stuck at the border crossing in worsening weather.

On Tuesday, Serbia and Croatia implemented a new system of transporting the migrants across their joint border, setting up trains to take refugees from a Serbian town of Sid to a transit center in Slavonski Brod in Croatia. The Croatian authorities will then transport the migrants directly to Slovenia, which shares a border with Austria.

dj/jm (AFP, Reuters, dpa, AP)

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