UNHCR scales up registration of Syrian refugees in surrounding region, as arrivals grow

Briefing Notes, 14 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 14 August 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

With hundreds of people fleeing Syria daily to surrounding countries, UNHCR is scaling up its capacity for registering Syrian refugees. Registration is important because without it people may have difficulties in access to basic help and services.

In Tripoli, north Lebanon, on Monday we opened a new registration facility at the Rachid Karame International Exhibition Centre. This will allow processing of up to 700 people per day. Currently, northern Lebanon has around 20,000 registered refugees. Thousands more are waiting to be registered even as new people arrive.

The centre's opening follows an information campaign in Lebanon to encourage people to register. Many displaced Syrians have been reluctant to register. While refugees are receiving some humanitarian assistance pending registration, registration is critical to receive medical care and to enrol children in Lebanese public schools, which resume next month after the summer break. UNHCR through its partners will cover the school fees of displaced Syrians and over the summer break has been running remedial classes for children struggling with a different curriculum and language of instruction. Before the summer break some 1,200 Syrian children were studying in schools in the North of Lebanon, and we estimate that another 3,000 to 4,000 children enter the system in September following registration.

Overall in Lebanon, and including those in the north, 37,740 Syrians have registered, with another 1,700 receiving assistance while they await registration. Of the registered population, 57 percent are in the North, while just over 40% are in the Bekaa in the east of the country. Smaller numbers of refugees are in Beirut, Mount Lebanon, and the south of the country. Registration continues in the Bekaa valley and Beirut.

Meanwhile, the security situation for refugees in the northern border areas of Lebanon is deteriorating. Northern parts of the Wali Khalid area, where several hundred refugee families reside, is targeted by shelling from the Syrian side of the border two-three times per week. Despite this situation, many families prefer to stay in the unsafe border areas where they have found refuge with host families than move to a collective shelter.

Elsewhere in the north of Lebanon, refugees with little money struggle to pay high rents for often substandard accommodation. In Tripoli, for example 90 percent of refugees are in rented accommodation costing at least $250 a month for two rooms. The generosity of host families is being stretched and conditions are crowded. UNHCR was told of one family in Tripoli who was hosting four families.

While most Syrians are staying with host families or renting apartments, an increasing number are seeking shelter in schools in the north and the east, a sign that local communities are unable to host more refugees in their homes. In the Bekaa valley area, some 94 families are now staying in schools including 80 in schools that are expected to reopen for the new school term in September. In the North, 51 families are currently staying in operational schools. UNCHR is scaling up its efforts to find alternative shelter for these refugees.

While refugee numbers continue to rise, UNHCR is receiving reports that many more Syrians have had difficulties crossing the border safely. Some said they spent four hours trying to reach the border (normally it would take no more than an hour) due to problems crossing checkpoints where they are questioned and cars searched.

Jordan

Over the past two days there has been a marked drop in the number of Syrians crossing into Jordan. Only 283 Syrians crossed the border on Saturday night compared to what had been a steady average of about 400 people arriving each night since July. Refugees have reported being fired upon by artillery and small arms while travelling to the border.

Some 6,000 people are now residing at the Za'atri camp (some 15 km from the border), with some 7,269 staying in other collective sites for refugees across the north of Jordan. While the desert wind continues to wreak havoc with the tents and life is tough for the refugees, UNHCR and its partners are working hard to improve conditions in the Za'atri camp. Electricity is being installed which will improve lighting to the public areas and make the camp safer for residents. Solar lamps have now been distributed to each tent. The Moroccan field hospital is now in operation and the French hospital is being established, boosting medical facilities in the camp.

Meanwhile in Amman, there has been a surge in the number of people applying to register with UNHCR with some 300 requests day over the past few days, compared to an average of 200 a day in the previous week. UNHCR does not believe the real size of the refugee population in Jordan is reflected in registration figures (45,998), as many people have been reluctant to register. We note that the Government of Jordan estimates that 145,000 to 150,000 people have arrived since March 2011.

Turkey

The pace of new arrivals to Turkey increased over the weekend, and 59,710 Syrians have now fled to Turkey including 2,000 people who are staying in schools in Adana waiting for spaces to become available in camps. Not all of these people have yet been registered by the Turkish authorities. Ten thousand of these people arrived over the past four days. Fifty percent of the refugees are children. Only a thousand of the new arrivals could go to the Gaziantep camp due to a shortage of space, while others are being placed in boarding schools in Oguzeli and a few hundred people are being accommodated at a gym in Islahiye. Another 2,000 people are at the border in Kilis / Oncupinar in the process of admission, and will be transferred to Osmaniye boarding schools until the new camp at Osmaniye is operational. A new camp is being established at Karkamis which is expected to be opened by the end of the month.

Iraq

Iraqis are continuing to return to Iraq from Syria. Some 25,906 have returned since 18th July, including some 400 on Saturday and 328 on Sunday. Most of these have returned through the Al-Waleed land border. A further 6,000 refugees have returned by air. The needs of the returnees range from ID documents to food, healthcare, cash and jobs. Many say their houses in Syria were destroyed by shelling and gunfire. One reported spending four days without food or water because of military operations. Those coming from Aleppo said they were forced out of their homes by armed forces.

At the same time, Syrians continue to flee to Iraq with 117 people arriving at Al-Qa'im on Saturday and 115 on Sunday. People are being directed to the newly opened camp at Al-Qa'im, and starting today the government is moving refugees from a school where many are housed to the camp. The total number of Syrian refugees in Iraq (including Kurdistan) is now 14,129. Of these, 13,025 have been registered.

Syria

In Syria, the situation is becoming more precarious for the refugee population. The minibus of a Somali refugee family of 11 trying to flee Tal Mneed and heading to Hornah was hit by arms fire. A nine year old boy was brought by a group of Syrian men to the Somali community in al-Hurneh, and the whereabouts of the rest of the family on the bus is unknown. A group of 70 Somali refugees was relocated by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) on Sunday from Hurnah to Masaken Barzeh where they were temporarily hosted by Somalis. But host families are feeling the strain and some have been evicted by landlords for hosting other displaced people. This group have now been relocated by SARC to schools in Zahira.

UNHCR operations are continuing despite the worsening security situation. Over recent days, we have distributed relief items such as jerry cans, mattresses and plastic sheets in Aleppo and Hassakeh. Health teams are operating in Masaken Barzeh and Zahira, and psychological counseling continues by phone. UNCHR continues to receive calls on its hotlines with refugees expressing concern about threats received, financial difficulties, and food assistance. Other refugees are calling us with queries about returning to Iraq and resettlement.

Statistics

UNHCR's official registration figures do not reflect the entire refugee populations in some countries as refugees are waiting or reluctant to register. As of 13 August the number of formally registered Syrian refugees and in the process of being registered in surrounding countries was 157,577 (45,998 in Jordan, 37,740 in Lebanon, 14,129 in Iraq, 59,710 in Turkey).

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Beirut: Ariane Rummery on mobile +961 7100 2689
  • In Geneva: Adrian Edwards on mobile +41 79 557 91 20
• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

Iraq Crisis: Urgent Appeal

Make a gift now to help protect and assist those fleeing violence in Iraq.

Donate to this crisis

CAR Crisis: Urgent Appeal

Make a gift now to help protect and assist those fleeing violence in Central African Republic.

Donate to this crisis

Registration

The recording, verifying, and updating of information on people of concern to UNHCR so they can be protected and UNHCR can ultimately find durable solutions.

Displacement in South Sudan: A Camp Within a Camp

In the three weeks since South Sudan erupted in violence, an estimated 200,000 South Sudanese have found themselves displaced within their own country. Some 57,000 have sought sanctuary at bases of UN peace-keepers across the country. These photos by UNHCR's Senior Regional Public Information Officer Kitty McKinsey give a glimpse of the daily life of the 14,000 displaced people inside the UN compound known locally as Tong Ping, near the airport in Juba, South Sudan's capital. Relief agencies, including UNHCR, are rallying to bring shelter, blankets and other aid items, but in the first days, displaced people had to fend for themselves. The compounds have taken on all the trappings of small towns, with markets, kiosks, garbage collection and public bathing facilities. Amazingly, children still manage to smile and organize their own games with the simplest of materials.

Displacement in South Sudan: A Camp Within a Camp

Displacement Challenges for Libya

Libya endured severe upheaval in 2011 and the next government faces major challenges moving the country forward after four decades of Muammar Gaddafi's rigid rule. One task will be addressing and resolving the issue of tens of thousands of internally displaced people. Some are waiting for their homes to be repaired or rebuilt, but many more have been forced to desert their towns and villages because of their perceived support for Gaddafi and alleged crimes committed during the conflict. Meanwhile, growing numbers of people, including refugees and asylum-seekers, are coming to Libya from sub-Saharan Africa on well travelled mixed migration routes. Some are being detained as illegal immigrants, though many are people of concern. Others have risked the dangerous sea crossing to southern Europe.

Displacement Challenges for Libya

Displacement, Disability and Uncertainty in Ukraine

To date, around 275,500 people have been displaced by fighting in Ukraine. They include some who live with disability, including Viktoria, aged 41, and her husband, Aleksandr, 40, who both have cerebral palsy. Life is difficult enough under normal circumstances for the couple, who also have two sons; 20-year-old Dima, and Ivan aged 19 months. Now it has become a real struggle.

At the end of July, shelling in the eastern Ukraine city of Donetsk forced Viktoria and Aleksandr to flee to the neighbouring Kharkiv region. It wasn't long before Viktoria's medication ran out. In a desperate bid to help, Aleksandr called the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation, which found them transportation and accommodation in Kharkiv.

From there, they were taken to the Promotei Summer Camp, located near the town of Kupiansk. The forest, fresh air and a lake near the camp offered a perfect setting to spend the summer. But, like 120 other internally displaced people (IDP) living there, all Viktoria and Aleksandr could think about was home. They had hoped to return by the Autumn. But it soon came and went.

Today, it is still not safe to go back to Donetsk. Moreover, the camp has not been prepared for the coming winter and the administration has asked people to leave by October 15. Neither Viktoria nor Aleksandr know where they and their young son can go next. The following photographs of the couple and their youngest child were taken by Emine Ziyatdinova.

Displacement, Disability and Uncertainty in Ukraine

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
Lebanon: The Natural HumanitarianPlay video

Lebanon: The Natural Humanitarian

In Lebanon, UNHCR refugee volunteers are helping their fellow Syrians to adjust to life in exile. This is the story of one – Dr. Ahmed, a 45-year-old dermatologist who fled to Lebanon in 2011 and now travels through Tripoli, caring for the wounded.