Syrians fleeing by the hundreds daily, says UNHCR

News Stories, 3 August 2012

© UNHCR/F.Juez
On average, Lebanon receives more than 500 Syrians an hour. Recent arrivals have headed to cities like Tripoli in northern Lebanon.

GENEVA, August 3 (UNHCR) As many as 1.5 million people could be displaced within Syria with little or no access to aid, warned the UN refugee agency on Friday as it sought to deliver supplies through the few remaining channels available.

As the fighting continues unabated, many people have been forced to flee their homes and seek refuge with host families or in makeshift shelters. "Many others are trapped, fearing the risk of being caught up in fighting or targeted during escape," UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming told journalists at a briefing in Geneva on Friday.

According to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, 7,200 people are seeking refuge in 45 schools and six dormitories in Aleppo. Many are staying in mosques while others move from village to village to escape the violence. UNHCR staff in Aleppo report a complete breakdown in mobile coverage and internet connectivity.

Through SARC, UNHCR has been delivering basic materials to help families set up makeshift homes. But the supplies were blocked on Thursday when military forces sealed off Aleppo.

Violence is also spreading in Damascus. The UN Relief and Works Agency reported 20 people dead and 10 more wounded in Yarmouk, where many Palestinian refugees live. An Iraqi refugee said his son was shot in the Sayyda Zainab neighbourhood and later died in hospital. A Sudanese refugee was shot in the legs by armed groups.

UNHCR has been providing limited financial and other assistance to many of the needy refugees in Damascus and Al Hasakeh. About 700 refugees approached UNHCR in the capital for help and advice on a recent single day. Most of them say they are afraid of being attacked or robbed. Many are hiding in schools that are overwhelmed and lack sufficient hygiene facilities.

Some of the refugees are opting to return home. More than 20,000 Iraqi refugees have left Syria for Iraq since mid-July, including more than 5,200 on mostly government-assisted flights. The Al-Waleed border point has received its first Syrian refugees, two families who fled Aleppo and Damascus. They have been moved to Al-Waleed refugee camp.

There are now 12,049 Syrian refugees in Iraq and officials are expecting a further influx.

UNHCR is working to complete a second refugee camp in Al-Qa'im with local authorities and partners. Some 100 tents have been set up so far. Syrian families are being registered in their current locations in schools and public centres in preparation for the eventual move into Al-Qa'im camp.

Jordan, too, continues to move recent arrivals into the new Za'atri camp amid ongoing work to expand the camp. Some 9,500 new arrivals were registered in July alone, many in Ramtha in the north-west. In total more than 37,000 people have been registered so far and over 2,700 are awaiting registration. More than 80 per cent of them come from the Syrian cities of Homs and Dara'a. Beyond those registered, the Jordanian government estimates that some 150,000 Syrian refugees have entered the Kingdom since March last year.

Meanwhile those fleeing Aleppo and surrounding areas are arriving in Turkey at a daily rate of 400-600 people. More than 44,000 Syrians nearly half below the age of 18 are now hosted in eight camps in four border provinces. UNHCR staff are present in the provinces to provide technical advice and emergency shelter materials.

Lebanon continues to receive a steady stream of arrivals from Homs, Damascus, Dara'a and Aleppo. Most do not register with UNHCR, proceeding directly to Beirut, Saida or Tripoli to live with family and friends, or to rent apartments.

Of the more than 33,000 registered and 1,700 awaiting registration in Lebanon, many are living in poor and under-serviced communities in North Lebanon and Bekaa valley. "Most are women and children who have a myriad of needs and are reliant on support provided within the communities and by the UN and international and national partners," said Fleming, adding that UNHCR is working with partners and the government to prepare for a possible larger influx.

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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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