Amid conflict in Syria, neighbouring countries see rising numbers of refugees

Briefing Notes, 10 August 2012

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 10 August 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR's offices in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, and Iraq are all reporting increases this week in the number of refugees from Syria. UNHCR data, which primarily reflects those among the refugee community who have registered or are in the process of being registered, shows a total population of 146,667 people as of August 9th. In several countries we know there to be substantial refugee populations who have not yet registered.

In Turkey, the refugee population has now exceeded 50,000 people (50,227), with more than 6,000 new arrivals recorded this week alone. Many of these are from Aleppo and surrounding villages, but others are from Idlib and Latakia. While the main flow is into Turkey, around 8,000 people returned home voluntarily during July mainly to villages in Syria's Idlib area.

On August 6 the Turkish government opened a new camp at Akcakale. It has also announced its intention to double overall reception capacity from the current 50,000 people to 100,000 people with the construction of as many as thirteen additional sites. Currently refugees are hosted in nine camps, with women and children accounting for more than two thirds (72 percent) of the population.

In Iraq, there are now 13,730 refugees. Most of the arrivals this past week are in the Kurdistan region (720 people), although 596 refugees were recorded further south in the Al-Qaem area. Most of the people are from the Qamishli and Hassakeh areas of Syria. In the Kurdistan area, one third of the refugees are being housed in a camp at Domiz and others are living with the community. Once a new camp is established in Al Qaem, the refugees, presently in a school, will be relocated there if they have no opportunity to be hosted by the community. Another camp is being considered near Rabia at Al-Kasis.

A growing number of Iraqis are also returning from Syria, including 2,993 who have come back since the start of August. Since mi-July, 23,228 Iraqis have left Syria to return home.

In Lebanon, 36,841 Syrian refugees are now either registered or assisted, but many thousands who have recently arrived in Lebanon are not yet registered with UNHCR. Information campaigns and the dissemination of our Office's registration hotline continue in border villages to encourage newly arrived families in need of protection or assistance to come forward and register.

In Jordan the number of refugees has now reached 45,869 people, with 3,891 of these having arrived so far in August. Of the registered population, most have come from the Dara'a or Homs areas of Syria. Typically this population comprises farmers, house keepers, and small business owners. All new arrivals are now being transferred to the camp at Za'atri, where the population has now reached 4,414 people. UN and NGO partners including the Jordan Hashemite Charity Organization are working to improve living conditions in the camps, which at present are difficult.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Beirut: Ariane Rummery on mobile +961 7100 2989
  • In Geneva: Adrian Edwards on mobile +41 79 557 91 20
  • In Geneva: Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba on mobile+41 79 249 34 83
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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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