U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to stop resettlement of Syrian refugees will cost lives, medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said on Monday.
"The president’s executive order will effectively keep people trapped in war zones, directly endangering their lives," MSF, also known as Doctors Without Borders, said in a statement.
“Slamming shut the doors to the United States of America, which has rigorously vetted refugees for years, is an attack on the basic accepted notion that people should be able to flee for their lives,” Jason Cone, executive director of MSF-USA, was quoted as saying in the statement.
“Every day our teams on the ground see people desperately seeking safety at closed borders and in war zones from which they cannot flee,” he said.
The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR says 4.9 million Syrians are refugees in neighboring countries, while almost a million have fled to Europe, and more than 6 million are displaced within their own country.
During the election campaign, Trump decried former President Barack Obama's decision to increase the number of Syrian refugees admitted to the United States over fears that some fleeing the country's civil war might carry out attacks.
Some 25,000 refugees were resettled in the United States between October and year-end under UNHCR's program for the most vulnerable, UNHCR said on Friday.
Trump's administration has banned entry of refugees and people from seven Muslim-majority countries, drawing criticism even from some prominent Republicans and protests that drew tens of thousands in major American cities.
On Sunday his administration tempered the ban by saying people who hold so-called green cards as lawful permanent U.S. residents would not be blocked.
Apart from Syria, the affected countries are Somalia, Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Yemen and Libya.
UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said in a joint statement on Saturday that the U.S. resettlement program was vital, and but they stopped short of criticizing the new administration's policy.
Nobody at UNHCR or IOM was immediately available to comment on Monday.
(Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Toby Chopra)