Little help from foreign ministry for Syria Swedes

As the situation in Syria grows more and more uncertain, there are reports one million refugees have fled the country, and more are trying to flee. Among them are perhaps two hundred Swedes. But, the Swedish authorities can’t do much to help them.

The Swedes who would like to get out of Syria can’t count on much help from the Swedish Foreign Ministry and its people stationed there. Claes Jernaeus of the Foreign Ministry’s press service says that with a limited number of air flights leaving Syria and the embassy personnel forbidden to leave Damascus, mostly what they can provide is information.

He says that they have recommended against travel to Syria since September 2011, and have been clear in saying that they have limited resources to help people. About all they can give is advice, like avoiding areas where there are military activities, demonstrations, funeral marches, or other large gatherings.

They also recommend against taking photographs or videos in sensitive places, and say that Swedes should have valid travel documents with exit visas, so they can leave the country if they have the opportunity.

Claes Jernaeus says it’s hard to know how many Swedes are in Syria right now. This week they’re working out a new estimate, but he says the number is probably in the hundreds.

"Our last count," he says, "indicated there were 200 Swedes registered in Syria. But at the time we actually estimated that the number could be as high as 600. Now they think many have left the country, partly because of the fighting, but also because the schools closed in June."