Registered Syrian refugees in surrounding states triple in three months

Briefing Notes, 2 October 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 2 October 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The number of Syrians registered or awaiting registration as refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq has now surpassed 300,000, triple the level of just three months ago. The latest figures show a total regional registered population of more than 311,500 Syrian refugees in the four countries, compared to around 100,000 in June.

The continuing rapid growth in refugee numbers underscores the urgency of last week's revised Syria Regional Response Plan seeking $487.9 million in support of up to 710,000 Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries by the end of this year. The generosity and hospitality shown by these countries as they struggle to cope with growing numbers of refugees make it essential that the international community provide as much support as possible. Many refugees and the communities hosting them are already running out of resources.

Compounding the urgency is the upcoming onset of winter temperatures across the region, in less than 10 weeks from now. We are in a race against time. In Jordan, for example, where thousands are living in tents, the average low temperature between mid-November and mid-March is two degrees Celsius. A winterization plan is being developed, but it too requires support and funding.

JORDAN: 103,488 Syrians in Jordan have registered or are awaiting registration four times more than in June. The new regional response plan estimates some 250,000 Syrian refugees will need assistance in Jordan by the end of the year. Some 65 percent of Syrian refugees currently receiving or seeking assistance in Jordan are in urban areas, while the remaining 35 percent are in the new camp at Za'atri and other smaller facilities (King Abdullah Park and Cyber City). Since it opened just two months ago, Za'atri has received more than 30,000 people.

In many cases, those living on the local economy are finding it increasingly difficult as their resources dwindle. Our Jordan office has seen a marked increase in Syrians struggling to live in urban areas approaching UNHCR help desks in Irbid, Ramtha, Mafraq and Zarqa, most of them worried about possible eviction. The vast majority of new arrivals are poor and in need of some kind of humanitarian assistance. UNHCR and its partners offer a variety of programmes to assist urban refugees in need, including cash assistance and the provision of a package of household items ranging from kitchen sets and mattresses to sanitation items. Since March, some 55,000 Syrians have received assistance items, while cash grants have gone to more than 2,600 of the most destitute families.

LEBANON: The number of registered Syrian refugees and those awaiting registration in Lebanon is now more than 80,800 people. The Lebanese government estimates that, in addition, tens of thousands of Syrians have entered Lebanon this year and not yet returned. Registered or not, they all live on the local economy often depending on relatives or their own resources. It is expected that an increasing number will be seeking assistance in the coming months as the resources of refugees as well as their host families become seriously stretched. Thus, the revised Syria response plan estimates a registered Syrian refugee population of 120,000 by the end of 2012.

The scattered nature of the Syrian refugee population in Lebanon is posing challenges in providing assistance in often remote areas. Some 56 percent are residing in the north; 41 percent in the Bekaa; and three percent in Beirut and the south. Many of the hosting communities are among the most economically depressed in Lebanon. As numbers increase and the winter months approach, needs are increasing and becoming more acute. UNHCR and partner agencies are rolling out a winterization program aiming to provide refugee families and vulnerable Lebanese ones with fuel for heating, mattresses, blankets and clothes as well as needed refurbishment to accommodations in readiness for the colder months.

TURKEY: Based on figures from the Government of Turkey, the number of Syrian refugees registered and assisted by the government in camps was 93,576 as of Oct. 1. Several thousand more are known to be residing outside the current 13 camps. Three more camps are opening. Under the revised response plan, Turkey could be hosting up to 280,000 Syrian refugees by the end of this year.

In addition to the influx of Syrians, Turkey has also seen an increase in the number of urban asylum applications over the past 15 months many of them related to the crisis in Syria. The new arrivals consist mostly of Iraqis, Iranians, Afghans and others who have come to Turkey seeking protection.

IRAQ: 33,704 Syrians have been registered in Iraq, including 4,263 in the past week. More than 28,000 are Syrian nationals of Kurdish origin who have arrived in the Kurdistan Region (Dohuk, Erbil and Sulaimaniya). Further south, at Al-Qaem, Anbar governorate, more than 5,600 Syrian nationals have sought asylum since the Baghdad government opened the country's borders in late July.

Initially, many of those fleeing into the Kurdish Region were single refugees. Recently, however, there has been a growing proportion of families among the new arrivals.

The revised regional response plan estimates that up to 60,000 Syrians may be in need of protection and assistance in Iraq by the end of the year.

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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Special Envoy Angelina Jolie in Iraq

The UN refugee agency's Special Envoy Angelina Jolie visited Iraq this week, meeting with Syrian refugees and internally displaced Iraqi citizens in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. She offered support to 3.3 million people uprooted by conflict in the country and highlighted their needs.

Jolie spoke to people with dramatic stories of escape, including some who walked through the night and hid by day on their road freedom. She also met women who were among the 196 ethnic Yazidis recently released by militants and now staying in the informal settlement at Khanke.

"It is shocking to see how the humanitarian situation in Iraq has deteriorated since my last visit," said Jolie. "On top of large numbers of Syrian refugees, 2 million Iraqis were displaced by violence in 2014 alone. Many of these innocent people have been uprooted multiple times as they seek safety amidst shifting frontlines."

Photos by UNHCR/Andrew McConnell

Special Envoy Angelina Jolie in Iraq

The Winter Triplets: a Bitter Sweet New Year's Tale

The birth of triplets on New Year's Day in eastern Lebanon's Bekaa Valley should have been cause for celebration, but there was a terrible cost attached. The newborns' mother, Syrian refugee Amal, died shortly after giving birth, never having a chance to see her boys.

In a twist of fate, Amal's own mother had died giving birth to her. Amal, whose name means "hope," had been excited at the prospect of having triplets and had been confident about the birth. She named the three boys before they were born - Riyadh, Ahmed and Khaled - and told her husband to take good care of them in case anything happened to her.

The weather in the Bekaa Valley seemed to reflect the torment of Amal's family. Less than a week after she died, the worst winter storm in years swept through the region bringing freezing temperatures and dumping huge amounts of snow across the Bekaa. And so this family, far from home, grieve for their loss as they struggle to keep their precious new members safe and warm. Photojournalist Andrew McConnell, on assignment for UNHCR, visited the family.

The Winter Triplets: a Bitter Sweet New Year's Tale

Surviving the Storm

A fierce winter storm swept through the Middle East this week bringing icy temperatures, high winds and heavy snow. In Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, more than 400,000 refugees have been enduring freezing conditions since snow levels not seen in many years arrived. Refugee accommodation in the Bekaa ranges from abandoned buildings to garages, sheds, apartments and informal settlements. Conditions are most difficult in the settlements, with roofing on makeshift shelters liable to collapse under the weight of the snow.

Although a great deal of winter aid has been provided, UNHCR remains concerned. Despite the agency's best efforts, the situation in Lebanon remains precarious for refugees, given the extremely poor conditions in which they live and the scattered nature of the population. It is a constant challenge to ensure that refugees across more than 1,700 localities remain safe and warm during the winter months and have sufficient resources to withstand severe storms.

Photojournalist Andrew McConnell spent two days in the Bekaa Valley, documenting the situation for UNHCR.

Surviving the Storm

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