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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Cold, Uncomfortable and Hungry in Calais

For years, migrants and asylum-seekers have flocked to the northern French port of Calais in hopes of crossing the short stretch of sea to find work and a better life in England. This hope drives many to endure squalid, miserable conditions in makeshift camps, lack of food and freezing temperatures. Some stay for months waiting for an opportunity to stow away on a vehicle making the ferry crossing.

Many of the town's temporary inhabitants are fleeing persecution or conflict in countries such as Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq, Sudan and Syria. And although these people are entitled to seek asylum in France, the country's lack of accommodation, administrative hurdles and language barrier, compel many to travel on to England where many already have family waiting.

With the arrival of winter, the crisis in Calais intensifies. To help address the problem, French authorities have opened a day centre as well as housing facilities for women and children. UNHCR is concerned with respect to the situation of male migrants who will remain without shelter solutions. Photographer Julien Pebrel recently went to Calais to document their lives in dire sites such as the Vandamme squat and next to the Tioxide factory.

Cold, Uncomfortable and Hungry in Calais

Abdu finds his voice in Germany

When bombs started raining down on Aleppo, Syria, in 2012, the Khawan family had to flee. According to Ahmad, the husband of Najwa and father of their two children, the town was in ruins within 24 hours.

The family fled to Lebanon where they shared a small flat with Ahmad's two brothers and sisters and their children. Ahmad found sporadic work which kept them going, but he knew that in Lebanon his six-year-old son, Abdu, who was born deaf, would have little chance for help.

The family was accepted by Germany's Humanitarian Assistance Programme and resettled into the small central German town of Wächtersbach, near Frankfurt am Main. Nestled in a valley between two mountain ranges and a forest, the village has an idyllic feel.

A year on, Abdu has undergone cochlear implant surgery for the second time. He now sports two new hearing aids which, when worn together, allow him to hear 90 per cent. He has also joined a regular nursery class, where he is learning for the first time to speak - German in school and now Arabic at home. Ahmed is likewise studying German in a nearby village, and in two months he will graduate with a language certificate and start looking for work. He says that he is proud at how quickly Abdu is learning and integrating.

Abdu finds his voice in Germany

A Teenager in Exile

Like fathers and sons everywhere, Fewaz and Malak sometimes struggle to coexist. A new haircut and a sly cigarette are all it takes to raise tensions in the cramped apartment they currently call home. But, despite this, a powerful bond holds them together: refugees from Syria, they have been stranded for almost a year in an impoverished neighbourhood of Athens.

They fled their home with the rest of the family in the summer of 2012, after war threw their previously peaceful life into turmoil. From Turkey, they made several perilous attempts to enter Greece.

Thirteen-year-old Malak was the first to make it through the Evros border crossing. But Fewaz, his wife and their two other children were not so lucky at sea, spending their life savings on treacherous voyages on the Mediterranean only to be turned back by the Greek coastguard.

Finally, on their sixth attempt, the rest of the family crossed over at Evros. While his wife and two children travelled on to Germany, Fewaz headed to Athens to be reunited with Malak.

"When I finally saw my dad in Athens, I was so happy that words can't describe," says Malak. However, the teenager is haunted by the possibility of losing his father again. "I am afraid that if my dad is taken, what will I do without him?"

Until the family can be reunited, Malak and his father are determined to stick together. The boy is learning to get by in Greek. And Fewaz is starting to get used to his son's haircut.

A Teenager in Exile

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