Syria Region: focus on enrolling refugee children in schools, Iraq border crossing opens at Al Qaem

Briefing Notes, 21 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 21 September 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

In Lebanon UNHCR and specialized partners are continuing a 'Back to School' programme among refugees aimed at encouraging enrolment of 15,000 children in public schools. In less than two weeks, 1,608 refugee children have enrolled in public schools in north and east Lebanon, over twice the total number of refugee children who enrolled in public schools last year. A recent circular by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education allowing all Syrian refugee students to enrol in Lebanese public schools is expected to further increase the enrolment rate this year. Remedial classes and accelerated learning programs are underway, targeting both Lebanese children and Syrian refugees. Transportation to schools is being provided for those in need.

Significant progress has been made this past week on relocating refugee families who till now have been living in schools. Some 106 out of 170 families who were living in schools set to reopen have been assisted to find alternative lodging, and solutions are being sought for the remainder. Most have moved to rental accommodation, assisted with cash grants, while a few relocated to unused schools in the Bekaa and others were generously welcomed by Lebanese families. While shelter remains in short supply, UNHCR continues to work closely with the authorities for approval of a range of shelter options urgently needed before the winter months. In the meantime, the rehabilitating of abandoned schools in which some families live and the renovating of host community houses continues.

There are now more than 72,913 Syrian refugees registered with UNHCR in Lebanon including 20,503 awaiting registration. This is twice the size of the registered refugee population in Lebanon compared to early August 2012.


Syrian refugees are being allowed to enter Iraq through the Al Qaem border, which was reopened last Tuesday. The new arrivals are directed to a new camp, which was established by the Ministry of Displacement and Migration in Al Qaem with UNHCR's support. In anticipation of continued arrivals, land has been allocated in the area for a third camp.

Registration of children for the new school year is on-going. A refugee committee in Domiz camp, close to Dohuk in northern Iraq has conducted house to house visits to inform the families about the registration process. Meanwhile at the Al Qaem camp, children will be educated in 7 tents set up by UNICEF.

In the last week, 3,933 Syrian refugees entered Iraq, bringing the number of Syrian refugees there to 29,441, including 24,669 Syrians hosted in the Kurdistan Regional Government.


In Syria, UNHCR teams continue to visit and help displaced Syrians and refugees living in communal and private shelters in Damascus and surrounding areas.

Despite the difficult security situation, the delivery of emergency domestic assistance continues in these areas and across the country. Since March 2012 UNHCR relief items have been distributed, primarily through the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, to some 173,000 people. On Wednesday, over 2,000 blankets were delivered in al Hassakeh in north-eastern Syria where blankets and warm clothes are particularly needed due to the cold nights. Other pressing needs of Syrians affected by the current situation include food, mattresses and sanitation improvements in communal shelters which often lack adequate shower facilities.

In Al Nabek, located between Damascus and Homs, UNHCR's cash assistance programme has so far reached over 2,200 Syrian families in need (amounting to close to USD 350,000 distributed).

Refugees continue to approach UNHCR's office. Last week, 14,000 refugees approached the office in Damascus office and some 3,000 calls have been received from refugees on UNHCR hotlines. Refugees come in relation to food distribution and material assistance, as well as counselling, including psychosocial support, which is increasingly needed. Last week, UNHCR's psychosocial team and outreach volunteers followed up on three attempted suicide cases that occurred among Syrian families and refugees affected by the situation, including that of two minors.


The Turkish Authorities are advising that the borders are open for new arrivals. All Syrians who have been temporarily accommodated in schools have now been transferred to the camps. Some 27,000 Syrians were previously accommodated in schools. In the last week, some 2,000 Syrians voluntarily returned to Syria from two camps in Sanliurfa.

According to local authorities, the camps in Kahramanmaras and Osmaniye are now operational, which brings the total number of camps to 12 accommodating some 83,260 refugees. Four new camps are being prepared. When all camps are complete, Turkey will have the capacity to host 130,000 people.

Between 8,000 and 10,000 Syrians are believed to be waiting at the borders of Kilis and Hatay in Syria. They are receiving food, water and medicine and authorities assure UNHCR the refugees are being admitted in smaller groups and transferred to camps as space becomes available.


In Jordan, refugees continue to arrive by the thousands. Last week over 4,000 Syrians, mostly from the neighbouring governorate Daraa arrived, bringing the total number of Syrian refugees registered or awaiting registration to around 92,778

This week the priority is on enrolment of refugee children in school. UNICEF expects some 2,000 students will start school at Za'atri on September 26th. It is estimated that over fifty percent (some 27,000 children) of the registered refugees in Jordan are school age.

In parallel a health vaccination campaign is underway in the Za'atri refugee camp. The Jordanian Ministry of Health, supported by UNICEF is vaccinating children for measles, polio and providing vitamin A. So far some 4,500 children have been vaccinated against measles.

For those Syrians living with the host community, the number of refugee families benefiting from monthly cash assistance has increased by 400 families in the past month, bringing the total number to 1,858. A further 3,055 Iraqi refugee families continue to benefit from cash assistance.


The number of Syrian refugees registered or awaiting registration is 278,392.

JORDAN (as of 19 September)

Total number of Syrian refugees: 92,778 (including 40,426 awaiting registration)

LEBANON (as of 19 September)

Total number of Syrian refugees: 72,913 (including 20,503 awaiting registration)

IRAQ (as of 19 September)

Total number of Syrian refugees: 29,441, (including 24,669 Syrians hosted in the Kurdistan Region)

Since June, 37,358 Iraqis have left Syria for Iraq, including 5,997 by air.

TURKEY (Government of Turkey statistics, dated 18 September)

Total number of Syrian refugees registered and assisted by the Government of Turkey in camps: 83,260

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Beirut: Mohammed Abu Asaker on mobile + 971 50 621 3552
  • In Geneva: Sybella Wilkes on mobile +41 79 557 91 38



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There are some 1.4 million Iraqi refugees living in Syria, most having fled the extreme sectarian violence sparked by the bombing of the Golden Mosque of Samarra in 2006.

Many Iraqi refugee parents regard education as a top priority, equal in importance to security. While in Iraq, violence and displacement made it difficult for refugee children to attend school with any regularity and many fell behind. Although education is free in Syria, fees associated with uniforms, supplies and transportation make attending school impossible. And far too many refugee children have to work to support their families instead of attending school.

To encourage poor Iraqi families to register their children, UNHCR plans to provide financial assistance to at least 25,000 school-age children, and to provide uniforms, books and school supplies to Iraqi refugees registered with UNHCR. The agency will also advise refugees of their right to send their children to school, and will support NGO programmes for working children.

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