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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

Iraqi Refugees in Jordan

The UN refugee agency has launched a US$60 million appeal to fund its work helping hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees and internally displaced people. The new appeal concludes that unremitting violence in Iraq will likely mean continued mass internal and external displacement affecting much of the surrounding region. The appeal notes that the current exodus is the largest long-term population movement in the Middle East since the displacement of Palestinians following the creation of Israel in 1948.

UNHCR has warned that the longer this conflict goes on, the more difficult it will become for the hundreds of thousands of displaced and the communities that are trying to help them – both inside and outside Iraq. Because the burden on host communities and governments in the region is enormous, it is essential that the international community support humanitarian efforts.

The US$60 million will cover UNHCR's protection and assistance programmes for Iraqi refugees in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Turkey, as well as non-Iraqi refugees and internally displaced people within Iraq itself.

Posted on 10 January 2007

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