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
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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.

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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