As Syrian refugee numbers top quarter of a million, UN Refugee Chief António Guterres and Special Envoy, Angelina Jolie, visit Jordan's Za'atari refugee camp

Briefing Notes, 11 September 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 11 September 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres and UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie are in Jordan today where they are visiting the Za'atari refugee camp for Syrian refugees. As well as showing solidarity with the refugees the visit is about recognizing the commitment of the Jordanian people and government to refugee protection. Latest figures show that more than a quarter of a million Syrian refugees (253,106 people) have now been registered in the surrounding region, or are awaiting registration.

Last night Ms. Jolie, who arrived in Jordan ahead of High Commissioner Guterres, visited the border with Syria where she met newly arriving families. Among them was an injured man. Most of the refugees cross the border at night. Ms. Jolie was accompanied on the visit by members of the Jordanian military, who have been providing protection and assistance to the refugees

Since its opening on July 29 2012 Za'atari camp, which is located close to Mafraq near the Syria border, has received 28,000 refugees. These are among the 85,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan who have registered or are awaiting registration (the actual number of refugees in Jordan is thought to be much higher). Most are living with host communities in urban areas.

Refugees tell us that artillery and air attacks are continuing in villages and towns close to the Jordanian border. There are reports of thousands of displaced people in Syria's south, moving from village to village seeking safety before they can cross the border.

The numbers of refugees crossing the border tends to fluctuate daily according to the security situation inside Syria. Overall, the average remains around two thousand new arrivals a day, but some days have seen less than 1000 people crossing.

Refugees say a number of sites in Damascus where displaced people have been sheltering are now affected by violence, forcing them to move again. Some refugees report being displaced five or six times before finally leaving the country.

UNHCR, together with the Jordanian Government, the Jordan Hashemite Charity Organization, and UN and NGO partners is working day and night to support Syrian refugees. Nevertheless, conditions at Za'atari a windswept camp in the desert are still harsh, and most refugees are living in tents. With winter approaching, we hope to be able to move people into prefabricated housing, which is arriving at a rate of up to 30 homes a day, giving priority to the most vulnerable families.

In the meantime, refugees are doing their best to establish their lives in the camp. Over the weekend, the first wedding took place. Several babies have been born at Za'atari since the camp opened.

Following the visit to the camps, High Commissioner Guterres and Special Envoy Jolie will meet His Majesty King Abdullah II Ibn Al-Hussein, Prime Minister Fayez Tarawneh and Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Judeh. Updates about the continuing visit will be posted at as information becomes available for release.


The number of Syrian refugees in the region who have been registered or are awaiting registration was 253,106 as of 10 September 2012.

- Jordan 85,197 {including 35,961 awaiting registration}

- Lebanon 66,915 {including 19,585 awaiting registration}

- Iraq 22,563 {including 1,767 awaiting registration} (As of September 09)

- Turkey 78,431 {all registered and assisted as per government statistics}.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Amman: Melissa Fleming on mobile +41 79 557 9122
  • In Geneva: Adrian Edwards on mobile +41 79 557 9120
  • Sybella Wilkes on mobile +41 79 557 91 38



Iraq Crisis: Urgent Appeal

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

Donate to this crisis

The High Commissioner

Filippo Grandi, who took office on January 1 2016, is the UN refugee agency's 11th High Commissioner.

Related Internet Links

UNHCR is not responsible for the content and availability of external internet sites

Angelina Jolie meets boat people in Malta, Lampedusa

Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie joined UNHCR chief António Guterres on the Italian island of Lampedusa, where they met with boat people who have fled unrest in North Africa.

More than 40,000 people, including refugees and asylum-seekers, have crossed the Mediterranean on overcrowded boats and descended on the small island since the beginning of the year.

The UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador flew to Lampedusa from Malta, which has also been a destination for people fleeing North Africa by boat.

Angelina Jolie meets boat people in Malta, Lampedusa

Angelina Jolie returns to Iraq, urges support for the displaced

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie returned to Iraq in July 2009 to offer support to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who remain displaced within their own country.

During her day-long visit to Baghdad, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie visited a makeshift settlement for internally displaced people in north-west Baghdad where she met families displaced from the district of Abu Ghraib, located to the west of Baghdad, and from the western suburbs of the capital.

Despite the difficulties in Iraq, Jolie said this was a moment of opportunity for Iraqis to rebuild their lives. "This is a moment where things seem to be improving on the ground, but Iraqis need a lot of support and help to rebuild their lives."

UNHCR estimates that 1.6 million Iraqis were internally displaced by a wave of sectarian warfare that erupted in February 2006 after the bombing of a mosque in the ancient city of Samarra. Almost 300,000 people have returned to their homes amid a general improvement in the security situation since mid-2008.

Angelina Jolie returns to Iraq, urges support for the displaced

Angelina Jolie in Bosnia

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie met with forcibly displaced people on April 5, 2010 during her first visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina. The actress, accompanied by her partner Brad Pitt, called for steps to end the continued suffering of these victims of the Bosnian War after hearing their harrowing tales and seeing their grim living conditions.

Jolie was clearly moved by the spirit - and the ordeal - of the people she met and she pledged to highlight their case. Most of the people she talked to have been living in exile since the end of the 1992-1995 conflict. Jolie visited collective centres in the towns of Gorazde and Rogatica, where the inhabitants lack basic services such as running water.

The actress spent some time with a group of women who were raped or tortured during the war. Their tales left a deep impression on her. She also met a family of refugee returnees who were still waiting to move into their village home near the eastern Bosnian town of Visegrad.

Angelina Jolie in Bosnia

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Cate Blanchett visits refugees in JordanPlay video

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Cate Blanchett visits refugees in Jordan

UNHCR global Goodwill Ambassador Cate Blanchett has recently visited Jordan, where she witnessed the ongoing humanitarian support to people displaced by conflict in Syria.
Switzerland: UNHCR Finding Pathways for Syrian RefugeesPlay video

Switzerland: UNHCR Finding Pathways for Syrian Refugees

In the pursuit of innovative ways to help Syrian refugees, a conference in Geneva considers proposals for other pathways such as humanitarian admission, scholarships, family reunification and labour mobility.
Syria: Hope Returns to Baba AmrPlay video

Syria: Hope Returns to Baba Amr

Twelve out of 36 neighbourhoods in the city of Homs are in desperate need of reconstruction. One of them is Baba Amr, where clashes in 2011-2012 uprooted some 80,000 people. Four years on, returning residents and Syrians displaced from other parts of the country are coming together to rebuild the area.