UNHCR says West should follow Turkey 'example' on Syria refugees

A Syrian refugee baby sits in front of a wall near the Turkish border post of Akcakale, province of Sanliurfa, on June 17, 2015 (AFP Photo/Bulent Kilic)
A Syrian refugee baby sits in front of a wall near the Turkish border post of Akcakale, province of Sanliurfa, on June 17, 2015 (AFP Photo/Bulent Kilic)

Istanbul (AFP) - The UN's refugee chief on Thursday urged the world including Western states to open up their borders and follow Turkey's example in hosting Syrian refugees.

Turkey, which has taken in some 1.8 million Syrian refugees since the conflict started in 2011, has repeatedly said that it has been left to shoulder a disproportionate burden as Western states stand by.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres told reporters in Istanbul at the launch of UNHCR's annual report that the world had a universal responsibility to protect the refugees.

"It is important that the European Union, like the Gulf Countries, like other parts of the world, also open their borders," he said.

He said Turkey's generosity has a special meaning in a world where "so many borders are closed or restricted and where new walls are being built or announced."

"This should force everyone to follow this example," he said.

"It is not only (a responsibility) of Turkey, of Lebanon or of Jordan," said Guterres, referring to two other countries which have also taken in large numbers of Syrian refugees.

"It is a global responsibility," he said.

Turkey has persued an "open-door" policy championed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan towards Syrian refugees, which Ankara has continued even amid increasing social strains.

The Turkish authorities last week caused controversy by closing its borders to refugees fleeing clashes between Kurds and jihadists for the Syrian town of Tal Abyad.

But it later opened the border and has taken in some 23,000 refugees fleeing the fighting.