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Syria refugee outflow to neighbouring countries growing fast

News Stories, 17 August 2012

© UNHCR/A.Eurdolian
Syrian refugees arriving in Jordan are being sheltered at Za'tari camp, a desert location where UNHCR is working to improve conditions.

GENEVA, 17 August (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency on Friday reported a sharp rise in the number of Syrians fleeing to Turkey and Jordan, with the total number of Syrian refugees registered in neighbouring countries exceeding 170,000 and many thousands more yet to be recorded.

An influx of 3,500 Syrians across the border into two provinces of Turkey in the middle of the week has brought the number sheltered in nine refugee camps in Turkey to almost 65,000, not all of them yet registered.

"About 40 percent of these are people who have arrived this month," UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards told a news conference. "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."

The number of arrivals is also rising sharply in Jordan, with 1,080 crossing the border from Syria on Thursday night, following 1,600 during the previous two nights. The Jordanian government is transferring all the newly arrived Syrians to the Za'atri refugee camp, which now hosts 7,655 people.

"More than 60 percent of those arriving at the camp this week have been children," Edwards said. He said a Saudi donation to UNHCR of US$6.2 million would pay for 2,500 containers to replace the tents which are ill-suited to the strong winds and searing heat in the camp. UN organizations are also working together to improve other facilities such as sanitation and water.

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

Registration of Syrian refugees is also being stepped up in Lebanon, with 37,240 people registered while a further 8,280 people have contacted UNCHR to be registered. A new registration centre opened this week in Tripoli.

UNHCR and its partners are urgently searching for alternative shelter for an increasing number of refugees who are staying in schools, which will be needed when Lebanese classes resume next month. Most Syrian refugees have been staying with host families but there has been a marked rise over the past two weeks in the number staying in collective shelters.

UNCHR and its partner Save the Children have also been carrying out an assessment of school places. They are working with Lebanese officials to increase enrolment of Syrian children and improve conditions for both Lebanese and Syrian students.

In Iraq, UNHCR will help Iraqi authorities expand one refugee camp and set up a fourth camp to cope with the growing number of Syrian arrivals. In all, 15,096 refugees from Syria are now in Iraq, 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.

The violence inside Syria is also forcing a return of Iraqis who had been living in Syria for up to 20 years. UNHCR will provide assistance to the returning Iraqis, who now total 26,821.

Inside Syria there are some 2.5 million people in need of support because of the conflict and 1.2 million internally displaced, according to the UN Regional Humanitarian Relief Coordinator. UNHCR must also continue to assist refugees from other countries who are living inside Syria.

"UNHCR operations in Syria continue despite ongoing shelling, explosions and armed clashes," said Edwards. "Refugees continue to visit UNHCR offices for food, health, registration and counseling. 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."

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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

Muazzez Ersoy

Muazzez Ersoy

Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

As world concern grows over the plight of hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrians, including more than 200,000 refugees, UNHCR staff are working around the clock to provide vital assistance in neighbouring countries. At the political level, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres was due on Thursday (August 30) to address a closed UN Security Council session on Syria.

Large numbers have crossed into Lebanon to escape the violence in Syria. By the end of August, more than 53,000 Syrians across Lebanon had registered or received appointments to be registered. UNHCR's operations for Syrian refugees in Tripoli and the Bekaa Valley resumed on August 28 after being briefly suspended due to insecurity.

Many of the refugees are staying with host families in some of the poorest areas of Lebanon or in public buildings, including schools. This is a concern as the school year starts soon. UNHCR is urgently looking for alternative shelter. The majority of the people looking for safety in Lebanon are from Homs, Aleppo and Daraa and more than half are aged under 18. As the conflict in Syria continues, the situation of the displaced Syrians in Lebanon remains precarious.

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