Number of Syrian refugees triples to 112,000 since April

News Stories, 17 July 2012

© UNHCR/F.Juez
A Syrian family being registered as refugees in Halba, northern Lebanon.

GENEVA, July 17 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency said on Tuesday the number of Syrian refugees that it has registered or assisted in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey has almost tripled since April to 112,000, mostly women and children. The actual number of Syrian refugees is thought to be significantly higher, as many people seek to be registered only when they run out of resources.

"In all four countries, many newly arriving Syrian refugees are dependent on humanitarian aid, with some coming with only the clothes on their backs and following many months of unemployment," UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards told journalists in Geneva. "The needs of those who arrived earlier in the year are also increasing as their savings have become depleted," he noted.

At the same time, the communities supporting the refugees are increasingly feeling the strain, with the local infrastructure and resources under severe pressure, in particular water, housing, schools and health facilities.

In Jordan, more than 33,400 Syrians are now registered with UNHCR. Almost 80 per cent of them registered in the past four months. This exceeds the number of Iraqi refugees registered in Jordan (29,091).

"UNHCR welcomes a decision of the Jordan Council of Ministers to establish camps to accommodate Syrian refugees," Edwards said. He added that while UNHCR maintains that a camp situation in Jordan is the option of last resort, "the number of refugees arriving in Jordan necessitates forward planning in the event that the capacity of the host community reaches saturation point or that the numbers of new arrivals rapidly increase."

UNHCR and the Jordan Hashemite Charity Organization (JHCO) have begun establishing the camp at Za'atri in northern Jordan's Mafraq Governorate. A site for 3,000 people has been prepared, including water and sanitation facilities installed by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF). The site has a potential capacity for around 113,000 people.

The total number of registered Syrians in Lebanon has reached some 28,100 refugees with a further 2,000 Syrians receiving assistance while waiting for registration. Security is a concern, with up to 800 Syrian refugees currently being hosted in villages in a precarious zone along the Lebanese-Syrian border.

In Iraq, the number of Syrian refugees of Kurdish origin registered with UNHCR and the Iraqi Department of Displacement and Migration in the Kurdistan Region has almost tripled since April, with more than 6,500 registered and over 1,400 awaiting registration. The camp in Domiz, close to Dohuk, is currently hosting about one third of the Syrian refugee population, with plans in development to relocate more refugees there.

According to the Turkish government, the camp population has doubled in the period from May 24 to July 16 and currently stands at around 40,000. The government has announced that two to three new sites may be established, in addition to upgrading existing sites. This will increase the country's hosting capacity by an additional 30,000 refugees.

"UNHCR is grateful that Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and Turkey have maintained open borders and that refugees are being welcomed," said Edwards. He added that two weeks after the launch of the Regional Response Plan for Syrian Refugees, which encompasses the needs of seven UN agencies and 36 NGO partners to support Syrian refugees, the plan (amounting to US$193 million) is only 26 per cent funded. UNHCR and partners warn that this low level of funding is having a profound impact on the humanitarian support being offered in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey.

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2008 Nansen Refugee Award

The UN refugee agency has named the British coordinator of a UN-run mine clearance programme in southern Lebanon and his civilian staff, including almost 1,000 Lebanese mine clearers, as the winners of the 2008 Nansen Refugee Award.

Christopher Clark, a former officer with the British armed forces, became manager of the UN Mine Action Coordination Centre-South Lebanon (UNMACC-SL) n 2003. His teams have detected and destroyed tons of unexploded ordnance (UXO) and tens of thousands of mines. This includes almost 145,000 submunitions (bomblets from cluster-bombs) found in southern Lebanon since the five-week war of mid-2006.

Their work helped enable the return home of almost 1 million Lebanese uprooted by the conflict. But there has been a cost – 13 mine clearers have been killed, while a further 38 have suffered cluster-bomb injuries since 2006. Southern Lebanon is once more thriving with life and industry, while the process of reconstruction continues apace thanks, in large part, to the work of the 2008 Nansen Award winners.

2008 Nansen Refugee Award

Beyond the Border

In 2010, the Turkish border with Greece became the main entry point for people attempting by irregular methods to reach member states of the European Union, with over 132,000 arrivals. While some entered as migrants with the simple wish of finding a better life, a significant number fled violence or persecution in countries such as Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq and Somalia. The journey is perilous, with many reports of drowning when people board flimsy vessels and try to cross the Mediterranean Sea or the River Evros on the border between Greece and Turkey. The many deficiencies in the Greek asylum system are exacerbated by the pressure of tens of thousands of people awaiting asylum hearings. Reception facilities for new arrivals, including asylum-seekers, are woefully inadequate. Last year, UNHCR visited a number of overcrowded facilities where children, men and women were detained in cramped rooms with insufficient facilities. UNHCR is working with the Greek government to improve its asylum system and has called upon other European states to offer support.

Beyond the Border

Lebanese Returnees Receive Aid

UNHCR started distributing emergency relief aid in devastated southern Lebanese villages in the second half of August. Items such as tents, plastic sheeting and blankets are being distributed to the most vulnerable. UNHCR supplies are being taken from stockpiles in Beirut, Sidon and Tyre and continue to arrive in Lebanon by air, sea and road.

Although 90 percent of the displaced returned within days of the August 14 ceasefire, many Lebanese have been unable to move back into their homes and have been staying with family or in shelters, while a few thousand have remained in Syria.

Since the crisis began in mid-July, UNHCR has moved 1,553 tons of supplies into Syria and Lebanon for the victims of the fighting. That has included nearly 15,000 tents, 154,510 blankets, 53,633 mattresses and 13,474 kitchen sets. The refugee agency has imported five trucks and 15 more are en route.

Posted on 29 August 2006

Lebanese Returnees Receive Aid

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