UNHCR appoints regional refugee coordinator for Syrian refugees

News Stories, 13 March 2012

© UNHCR
Panos Moumtzis, UNHCR's newly appointed Regional Refugee Coordinator for Syrian Refugees, briefs journalists at the Geneva Palais, March 13, 2012

GENEVA, March 13 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency announced on Tuesday the appointment of a veteran of emergency operations to coordinate its approach to the refugee crisis in Syria and neighbouring countries, which have received some 30,000 Syrian civilians.

As Regional Refugee Coordinator, Panos Moumtzis will be based in Geneva and work closely with the refugee agency's Middle East and North Africa Bureau and UNHCR representatives in concerned countries. The Arabic speaker's brief will also be to ensure smooth cooperation with inter-agency coordination mechanisms. He will travel frequently to the region.

Moumtzis will also work closely with the UN Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria Radhouane Nouicer in ensuring effective linkages and cohesion between the refugee operations in neighbouring countries and the broader humanitarian response plan.

At a press briefing in Geneva to announce his appointment, Moumtzis told journalists that around 30,000 people had fled to neighbouring countries since the turmoil erupted in Syria a year ago. "Significant numbers of Syrians are thought to be displaced inside Syria," he added.

UNHCR teams in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey have been working during this time to support the governments and non-governmental organizations providing shelter, aid and protection to the refugees. Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey all maintain a policy of open borders for Syrians fleeing the violence.

Inside Syria, the government continues to host and support 110,000 refugees registered with UNHCR, the majority from Iraq.

Moumtzis said UNHCR and the Lebanese government have jointly registered just over 7,000 Syrians in north Lebanon and registration is to continue in Tripoli, where several thousand more are believed to have taken refuge. They have mainly arrived from Homs province. There are also an estimated 4,000 people sheltering in the Bekaa valley.

UNHCR is working to verify the numbers and is carrying out distribution of food and other items. In other parts of Lebanon, an additional 1,000 Syrian refugees are receiving assistance from UNHCR and partners.

In northern Lebanon, UNHCR and its partners regularly distribute food and other aid to registered refugees and host families in need. Primary health care is available through public and private clinics, with UNHCR covering most of the costs. More serious cases, including some 268 war wounded to date, are referred to hospitals and their care paid for by the government.

Moumtzis said refugee children in the north had been able to enrol in local schools, with UNHCR and partners providing the costs of educational supplies and remedial classes. UNHCR was also helping the displaced in the Bekaa Valley, he said, adding that teams were liaising with the authorities and assessing needs.

In Jordan, more than 5,000 Syrians have registered with UNHCR, with a further 2,000 awaiting registration. The majority are living with host families, from Irbid and Ramtha in the north to Amman and as far south as Maan.

UNHCR is providing assistance to urban refugees (including cash grants and aid items), and is assisting the government in renovating and running a transit facility at the Ramtha border. The centre has seen over 1,000 Syrians transit through it, and currently houses some 380 people in very cramped conditions.

The new regional coordinator said that local humanitarian aid groups in Jordan, as with Lebanon, were playing an important role in responding directly to needs, and in referring vulnerable Syrians to UNHCR for registration and community services support. Access to health care is a key concern for Syrians; UNHCR, the UN country team and government are working together to provide these services.

In Turkey, where camps are being managed by the government, almost 23,000 people have received protection in seven camps in Hatay province. Some of this population has returned to Syria and the camps now hold more than 13,000 refugees. The government plans to move the majority to Kilis province, where a purpose built container city has been prepared. The Turkish government is providing the majority of assistance to the refugees.

Moumtzis said that inside Syria, Iraqi refugees report a significant increase in the price of basic commodities, due to inflation and the devaluation of the Syrian pound. UNHCR continues to support more than 11,000 of the most destitute refugee families through a financial assistance programme. From March, the agency will help meet the food needs of approximately 97,000 refugees thought a cash assistance-ATM programme. Together with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and other national and international partners a number of basic services are also provided to help the refugee population to cope with an increasingly difficult socio-economic situation

UNHCR has observed that refugees and Syrians have moved out of areas of unrest, with many choosing villages at the outskirts of the main cities, as well as rural Damascus and Damascus Governorate itself, that are considered more secure.

Moumtzis, a Greek national, joined UNHCR in 1990, after working with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. He has worked on crises in places like Iraq, Kenya, Rwanda and Côte d'Ivoire and last year served as UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Libya.

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

Internally Displaced People

The internally displaced seek safety in other parts of their country, where they need help.

Related Internet Links

UNHCR is not responsible for the content and availability of external internet sites

Iraqi Children Go To School in Syria

UNHCR aims to help 25,000 refugee children go to school in Syria by providing financial assistance to families and donating school uniforms and supplies.

There are some 1.4 million Iraqi refugees living in Syria, most having fled the extreme sectarian violence sparked by the bombing of the Golden Mosque of Samarra in 2006.

Many Iraqi refugee parents regard education as a top priority, equal in importance to security. While in Iraq, violence and displacement made it difficult for refugee children to attend school with any regularity and many fell behind. Although education is free in Syria, fees associated with uniforms, supplies and transportation make attending school impossible. And far too many refugee children have to work to support their families instead of attending school.

To encourage poor Iraqi families to register their children, UNHCR plans to provide financial assistance to at least 25,000 school-age children, and to provide uniforms, books and school supplies to Iraqi refugees registered with UNHCR. The agency will also advise refugees of their right to send their children to school, and will support NGO programmes for working children.

UNHCR's ninemillion campaign aims to provide a healthy and safe learning environment for nine million refugee children by 2010.

Iraqi Children Go To School in Syria

Iraqi Refugees in Syria: 2,000 New Arrivals Daily

The UN refugee agency is increasingly alarmed over the continuing violence in Iraq and distressed about the lack of an international humanitarian response to deal with the massive numbers of people being displaced. After an assessment mission in November last year, UNHCR officials warned that the agency was facing an even larger humanitarian crisis than it had prepared for in 2002-03. But UNHCR and other organisations are sorely lacking in funds to cope with the growing numbers of displaced.

In an effort to fill the massive gap in funding, UNHCR in January 2007 launched a US$60 million appeal to cover its protection and assistance programmes for Iraqi refugees in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Turkey, as well as non Iraqi refugees and internally displaced people within strife torn Iraq.

The longer the Iraq conflict goes on, the more difficult it will become for the hundreds of thousands of displaced and the communities that are trying to help them – both inside and outside Iraq. Because the burden on host communities and governments in the region is enormous, it is essential that the international community support humanitarian efforts.

Posted on 5 February 2007

Iraqi Refugees in Syria: 2,000 New Arrivals Daily

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie meets Iraqi refugees in Syria

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie returned to the Syrian capital Damascus on 2 October, 2009 to meet Iraqi refugees two years after her last visit. The award-winning American actress, accompanied by her partner Brad Pitt, took the opportunity to urge the international community not to forget the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees who remain in exile despite a relative improvement in the security situation in their homeland. Jolie said most Iraqi refugees cannot return to Iraq in view of the severe trauma they experienced there, the uncertainty linked to the coming Iraqi elections, the security issues and the lack of basic services. They will need continued support from the international community, she said. The Goodwill Ambassador visited the homes of two vulnerable Iraqi families in the Jaramana district of southern Damascus. She was particularly moved during a meeting with a woman from a religious minority who told Jolie how she was physically abused and her son tortured after being abducted earlier this year in Iraq and held for days. They decided to flee to Syria, which has been a generous host to refugees.

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie meets Iraqi refugees in Syria

Jordan: Mohammad's Struggle for SurvivalPlay video

Jordan: Mohammad's Struggle for Survival

Meet Mohammad, a Syrian refugee in Jordan who, without the legal right to work, struggles to support his family and ensure his children's future.
Responding to Syria's Tragedy Play video

Responding to Syria's Tragedy

As Syria's war heads towards a fifth year, the United Nations and partners today launched a major new humanitarian and development appeal, requesting over US$8.4 billion in funds to help nearly 18 million people in Syria and across the region in 2015
Turkey: Faysal's Flight from Kobane , SyriaPlay video

Turkey: Faysal's Flight from Kobane , Syria

More than 170,000 people have fled from the town of Kobane in northern Syria to escape a fierce offensive by ISIL militants. Faysal managed to escape to Turkey before the fighting in the cauldron of conflict intensified, but he still has some family left in the besieged town on the border.