Refugee outflow into neighbouring countries still growing fast, amid violence in Syria

Briefing Notes, 17 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 17 August 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

There has been a further sharp rise in the number of Syrians fleeing to Turkey. Between Tuesday and Wednesday 3500 people crossed into the provinces of Kilis and Hatay, according to local officials. Those who crossed into Kilis (1700 people) are from the Azaz and Aleppo areas, while those crossing into Hatay were mainly from Aleppo and surrounds, but also from Latakia and Idlib.

With the latest arrivals there are now almost 65,000 Syrians in the nine camps in Turkey (though not all are yet formally registered), about 40 percent of these being people who have arrived this month. UNHCR is scaling up its humanitarian assistance in Turkey and will provide family tents, blankets, kitchen sets and other relief on an emergency basis to assist the Government of Turkey in addressing urgent needs.


In Jordan, refugee numbers are also climbing. Last night some 1080 people arrived at the Ramtha and Jaber border areas. On Wednesday the arrivals figure was 900 people, and 700 arrived on Tuesday. The Jordanian government is transferring all new arrivals to the Za'atri camp which now hosts some 7,655 people. More than 60 percent of those arriving at the camp this week have been children.

At the Za'atri camp we are working to improve conditions for the refugees, including the possibility of replacing tents with prefabs. More sanitation facilities are also being built and the ratio of people to toilets (now 40 to 1) is improving. While UNICEF is bringing in water daily, plans are underway for a well which will provide 60 to 80 cubic metres of water per hour. WFP is providing over 12,000 meals a day. Performances for children will be organized on the first two days of Eid.

The Jordanian government estimates some 150,000 Syrians have crossed into Jordan since March 2011. 46,898 refugees have registered with UNHCR and thousands more are receiving assistance from other organizations.


In Lebanon, UNHCR and its partners are urgently searching for alternative shelter for an increasing number of refugees staying in schools. We've seen a marked rise in the number of Syrians staying in collective shelters over the past fortnight, and these people will need to be relocated before school enrolment begins at the start of September. In Bekaa, our partner's shelter teams have identified several abandoned buildings which can be rehabilitated to provide shelter, and the search continues for more options. Meanwhile in the North, UNHCR and its partners are quickly searching for alternative shelter for some 30 families staying in schools in Wali Kahlid. We are working to rehabilitate unfinished houses to accommodate refugees, and otherwise helping host families with shelter tool kits to make renovations.

UNCHR and partners have been carrying out an assessment of school places as part of an effort to increase enrolment of Syrian children. We are working with local school directors and the Ministries of Education and Social Affairs to boost school enrolment of Syrian children in schools and improve conditions for Syrian and Lebanese children.

Registration continues throughout Lebanon, with 37,240 people registered nationwide to date. A further 9,432 people have contacted UNHCR to be registered.


UNHCR will help Iraqi authorities expand the camp in Al-Qaem and is discussing a new camp in the Al-Kasak area of Rabi'aa to accommodate the growing number of Syrian refugees. This will be the 4th camp in Iraq for Syrians alongside Domize, Al-Qaem and Al-Waleed. UNHCR will provide and install tents, provide relief items. UNICEF and the Government of Iraq will connect water and sanitation, and the government will provide electricity in the camp.

In all, 15,096 refugees from Syria are now in Iraq, with more than 10,000 of them hosted in Kurdistan. Of the total number of refugees in Iraq, 13,856 are registered while the rest are awaiting registration.

Syrian Arab Republic

UNHCR operations in Syria continue despite on-going shelling, explosions and armed clashes. Refugees continue to visit UNHCR offices for food, health, registration and counselling. We are also continuing our community visits, distributing relief items like blankets, mattresses, kitchen sets, jerry cans and diapers for babies to the displaced sheltering in public buildings. A few days ago, we began supporting SARC to provide hot meals for 6,000 families in communal shelters for the last five days of Ramadan. On Wednesday, the UNHCR-SARC cash-for-shelter projected started in the Al-Nabek village in Homs which has doubled in population since the conflict reached it earlier this year, with its residents generously hosting thousands of people. We aim to support 5,000 families in this area.

Our 11 telephone hotlines continue to receive calls from refugees about resettlement to third countries, internal relocation within Syria, and financial aid.

There are some three million persons affected by the conflict, 2.5 million in need of support, and 1.2 million internally displaced people, according to the Regional Humanitarian Relief Coordinator.


The total number of formally registered Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq now totals 170,116, though the real number of refugees is higher as not all refugees register.

Jordan: Total registered = 46,898

Lebanon: Total registered = 46,672

Iraq: Total registered = 15,096

The total number of Iraqi returnees from Syria has reached 26,821 since July 18, including 5,997 returnees by air.

Turkey: Total registered = 61,450 (figure does not include those awaiting registration)

Press contacts:

  • Ariane Rummery (Lebanon) + 961 71 002 689
  • Adrian Edwards (Geneva) +41 79 557 9120



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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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