Syria situation regional roundup

Briefing Notes, 23 October 2012

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 23 October 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Lebanon has become the third country in the region to see its population of registered Syrian refugees and people waiting for registration exceeding the 100,000 mark. As of yesterday the number of refugees was 101,283. Turkey and Jordan already have refugee populations in excess of this figure, and region-wide the number has climbed to more than 358,000. Governments in states bordering Syria estimate there are tens of thousands more Syrians who have not yet registered.

The recent unrest in Lebanon has temporarily disrupted UNHCR operations, including registration of refugees in Tripoli, Akar, Beirut and Saida in southern Lebanon. Registration was to have begun yesterday (Monday) in Saida, where some 800 Syrians already have appointments. We are assessing the security situation and hope to resume all operations as soon as conditions allow.

More than 5,500 Syrian refugees were registered last week at UNHCR centres. It is expected that more will continue to seek help the longer they stay in exile and as their own resources diminish. Most Syrian refugees in Lebanon are in the north and Bekaa, and nearly 70 per cent are from Homs.

Many of the refugees in Lebanon are struggling to make ends meet on the open economy and complain of high prices. Helping to ease the strain, the government announced last week that it will waive a fee for Syrians wishing to renew residency permits. Over the past week, some 16,000 refugees received food, blankets, mattresses, hygiene kits and baby kits from sources including UNHCR, WFP, Danish Refugee Council, World Vision, UNFPA, UNICEF and Caritas.

In Turkey, the registered refugee population in 14 government-run camps spread across seven provinces stood at 101,834 as of October 17th. In addition to the camp population an estimated 70,000 people reside outside the camps.

In Jordan, 105,737 Syrians have registered as refugees or are awaiting registration. In Iraq, there are now 42,661 Syrian refugees, including 34,446 in the northern Kurdistan Region.

As of October 20th UNHCR had also recorded 6,815 registered refugees in North Africa, most of them in Egypt. Egyptian officials, however, said last week that there are as many as 150,000 Syrians in the country, although very few have registered.

UNHCR continues to stress the urgent need for international support to refugee programmes in these countries nations that should not be expected to carry the entire burden themselves. Nearly four weeks after the launch of the $487.9 million revised Syria Regional Response Plan, we remain only about a third funded. And we are racing against time to ensure that all of these hundreds of thousands of refugees are protected from the winter cold.

In Turkey, winter preparations include the provision of additional aid items. UNHCR is working with the Turkish Red Crescent Society to ensure that people have winter blankets, tarpaulins and electric heaters. We are also planning support for asylum seekers and refugees in urban locations.

Turkey says its borders remain open for Syrians seeking asylum. The authorities report, however, that there are more than 10,000 Syrians gathered on the Syrian side of the border opposite both Kilis and Hatay provinces. It is not clear whether all are willing to cross into Turkey. The Turkish Red Crescent is providing assistance to people on the border, and there are reports that some Turkish NGOs are providing humanitarian aid on the Syrian side.

In Syria itself, UNHCR yesterday reached the half-way mark in its goal of distributing non-food aid packages to 100,000 Syrian families (500,000 people) by the end of this year. And last week, UNHCR Syria began rolling out an ongoing cash assistance programme for the displaced in Hassakeh Governorate. During the week, our team in Hassakeh, reinforced by staff from Damascus, provided cash assistance to 5,230 families (approx. 26,000 individuals). With this one-time cash assistance affected Syrian families will be able to meet some of the needs that are not covered by our non-food aid packages. Hassakeh is the second location where Syrians have been able to benefit from the cash assistance programme, which was earlier piloted in Al Nabek (south of Homs), where some 3,525 families received emergency funds.

In anticipation of a possible truce during Eid, UNHCR has pre-positioned 5,000 emergency relief family kits in Aleppo, with another 5,000 on the way. If the truce happens, these materials could be delivered to 10,000 displaced families by implementing partners in places that we have previously been unable to reach around Aleppo and Idlib.

In addition, we are dispatching 1,000 recreational items that Syria Trust for Development, a local NGO, will distribute this week to children living in communal shelters in Damascus and Aleppo.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Amman (for general Syria enquires): Ron Redmond (Regional Spokesman) on mobile +962 79 982 5867
  • In Geneva: Melissa Fleming on mobile +41 79 557 9122
  • In Geneva: Adrian Edwards on mobile +41 79 557 9120
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2008 Nansen Refugee Award

The UN refugee agency has named the British coordinator of a UN-run mine clearance programme in southern Lebanon and his civilian staff, including almost 1,000 Lebanese mine clearers, as the winners of the 2008 Nansen Refugee Award.

Christopher Clark, a former officer with the British armed forces, became manager of the UN Mine Action Coordination Centre-South Lebanon (UNMACC-SL) n 2003. His teams have detected and destroyed tons of unexploded ordnance (UXO) and tens of thousands of mines. This includes almost 145,000 submunitions (bomblets from cluster-bombs) found in southern Lebanon since the five-week war of mid-2006.

Their work helped enable the return home of almost 1 million Lebanese uprooted by the conflict. But there has been a cost – 13 mine clearers have been killed, while a further 38 have suffered cluster-bomb injuries since 2006. Southern Lebanon is once more thriving with life and industry, while the process of reconstruction continues apace thanks, in large part, to the work of the 2008 Nansen Award winners.

2008 Nansen Refugee Award

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UNHCR and its partners estimate that out of a total population of 26 million, some 1.9 million Iraqis are currently displaced internally and more than 2 million others have fled to nearby countries. While many people were displaced before 2003, increasing numbers of Iraqis are now fleeing escalating sectarian, ethnic and general violence. Since January 2006, UNHCR estimates that more than 800,000 Iraqis have been uprooted and that 40,000 to 50,000 continue to flee their homes every month. UNHCR anticipates there will be approximately 2.3 million internally displaced people within Iraq by the end of 2007. The refugee agency and its partners have provided emergency assistance, shelter and legal aid to displaced Iraqis where security has allowed.

In January 2007, UNHCR launched an initial appeal for US$60 million to fund its Iraq programme. Despite security issues for humanitarian workers inside the country, UNHCR and partners hope to continue helping up to 250,000 of the most vulnerable internally displaced Iraqis and their host communities

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