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UNHCR: US campaign rhetoric threatens refugee resettlement

A UNHCR spokeswoman says rhetoric such as Republican front-runner Donald Trump's call to ban Muslims from entering the US imperils resettlement efforts. The UN refugee agency urged Jordan to let stranded Syrians enter.

A representative from the UN refugee agency has voiced concern over campaign rhetoric in the United States that could affect a crucial resettlement program for Syrians and others fleeing war and persecution.

On Monday, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump called for a border ban on Muslims in response to last week's shooting in San Bernardino by two people believed by the FBI to have been radicalized.

"We are concerned that the rhetoric that is being used in the election campaign is putting an incredibly important resettlement program at risk that is meant for the most vulnerable people - the victims of wars that the world is unable to stop," UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said during a news briefing in Geneva.

Dozens of state governors in the United States have spoken out against the resettlement program.

"What (Trump) was speaking of was an entire population but this also impacts the refugee program," Fleming said, according to the Reuters news agency.

"Because our refugee program is religion-blind, our resettlement program selects the people who are the most in need," Fleming said.

According to the UNHCR, about 120,000 refugees are dispersed worldwide each year, including in the United States, which has the world's largest resettlement program. This year the agency expects that it will ask the US to take in 75,000 refugees, mainly from the Middle East and Africa.

Appeals to Jordan

Fleming also spoke about the fate of 12,000 Syrians stranded at the border with Jordan and asked Jordan to let them inside its territory.

"The lives of refugees will be at risk in the coming months," Fleming said. "So today the UNHCR appeals to the government of Jordan to allow refugees stranded at the border to enter the country."

Millions of Syrians have been forced to flee their country, which is embroiled in a civil war that has dragged on for nearly five years. Though many have opted to undertake the perilous journey to Europe, more have fled to neighboring countries such as Jordan and Turkey. The situation has worsened since November as a result of intensified airstrikes.

ap/mkg (Reuters, dpa)

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