Number of Syrian refugees registered in region passes half a million

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

More than half a million Syrian refugees have now been registered or are awaiting registration in the four surrounding countries and North Africa, and the numbers are currently climbing by more than 3,000 per day.

According to UNHCR's latest figures from Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey and North Africa, 509,559 Syrians are either already registered (425,160) or in the process of being registered (84,399).

Contrary to public perceptions, only about 40 per cent of registered Syrian refugees region-wide actually live in refugee camps. The majority live outside camps, often in rental housing, with host families, or in various types of collective centres and renovated accommodation.

In Lebanon and North Africa, for example, there are no camps. Instead, Syrian refugees live in both urban and rural communities. In Jordan, only 24 per cent live in camps. In Iraq, half are in camps. And in Turkey, 100 per cent are in government-run camps.

There are currently 14 camps in Turkey, three in Iraq and three in Jordan.

As of yesterday, the latest figures of registered Syrian refugees or those awaiting registration in each country are: Lebanon, 154,387; Jordan, 142,664; Turkey, 136,319; Iraq, 64,449; and North Africa, 11,740.

In addition to those already registered or awaiting registration, most of these neighbouring countries and North Africa also have large numbers of Syrians who have yet not come forward to seek help. Jordan estimates, for example, that it has some 100,000 who are not registered. Turkey estimates there are more than 70,000 outside camps, while Egypt is estimating a similar number there. Lebanon also estimates that it has tens of thousands who have not yet registered.

Since the beginning of November, the number of registered refugees region-wide has risen by about 3,200 a day, including both new arrivals from Syria and those who had already been in the asylum countries for some time but had not sought help through registration. The numbers of those struggling to live on the local economy and who eventually come forward to register are expected to increase as the conflict in Syria continues, resources are depleted and host communities and families can no longer support them.

In the case of Jordan, close to 1000 Syrian refugees have crossed during the past two nights. Syrian refugees arriving during recent bad weather, reached Jordan with soaked clothing and mud-covered shoes due to heavy rainfall. UNHCR protection teams described the night time arrivals as fearful, freezing, and without proper winter clothing. UNHCR and partners have welcomed some 2,500 Syrian refugees to the Za'atri camp in the past week with blankets, sleeping mats and a high energy meal, with doctors responding to the medical needs of the newly arrived.

UNHCR observed in Jordan an increase in elderly arrivals and children, with 60 per cent of recent arrivals under the age of 18, including 22 new born infants during the night of the 9th of December, and also including a number of unaccompanied minors. The eldest arrival was an 85-year-old woman, who had fled with her grandchildren.

As part of efforts to help refugees deal with the winter cold, UNHCR and humanitarian partners are in the process of distributing some 50,000 high thermal blankets at Za'atri. This is in addition to some 62,000 blankets that have already been distributed in Za'atri to date. On 10 December, UNHCR's partner in the winterization efforts, Norwegian Refugee Council, received the first batch of gas heaters on site, which will be a welcome addition to the new porches being installed as temperatures continue to drop.

UNHCR is stepping up its outreach activities in the region to provide registration and help to those who need it. This is not easy, given the wide dispersal of the Syrian refugees in some areas. In Lebanon, for example, they are spread across some 500 municipalities, some of them quite remote.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Amman: Ron Redmond (Regional Spokesman) on mobile +962 79 982 5867
  • Tala Kattan on mobile: +962 79 978 3186
  • Aoife McDonnell on mobile: +962 795 450 379
  • In Geneva: Melissa Fleming on mobile: +41 79 557 9122
  • Adrian Edwards on mobile: +41 79 557 9120
  • At the Turkish border: Mohammed Abu Asaker (Regional Spokesman, Arabic) on mobile + 971 50 621 3552



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Stateless in Beirut

Since Lebanon was established as a country in the 1920s there has been a long-standing stateless population in the country.

There are three main causes for this: the exclusion of certain persons from the latest national census of 1932; legal gaps which deny nationality to some group of individuals; and administrative hurdles that prevent parents from providing proof of the right to citizenship of their newborn children.

Furthermore, a major reason why this situation continues is that under Lebanese law, Lebanese women cannot pass on their nationality to their children, only men can; meaning a child with a stateless father and a Lebanese mother will inherit their father's statelessness.

Although exact numbers are not known, it is generally accepted that many thousands of people lack a recognized nationality in Lebanon and the problem is growing due to the conflict in Syria. Over 50,000 Syrian children have been born in Lebanon since the beginning of the conflict and with over 1 million Syrian refugees in the country this number will increase.

Registering a birth in Lebanon is very complicated and for Syrian parents can include up to five separate administrative steps, including direct contact with the Syrian government. As the first step in establishing a legal identity, failure to properly register a child's birth puts him or her at risk of statelessness and could prevent them travelling with their parents back to Syria one day.

The consequences of being stateless are devastating. Stateless people cannot obtain official identity documents, marriages are not registered and can pass their statelessness on to their children Stateless people are denied access to public healthcare facilities at the same conditions as Lebanese nationals and are unable to own or to inherit property. Without documents they are unable to legally take jobs in public administrations and benefit from social security.

Children can be prevented from enrolling in public schools and are excluded from state exams. Even when they can afford a private education, they are often unable to obtain official certification.

Stateless people are not entitled to passports so cannot travel abroad. Even movement within Lebanon is curtailed, as without documents they risk being detained for being in the country unlawfully. They also do not enjoy basic political rights as voting or running for public office.

This is the story of Walid Sheikhmouss Hussein and his family from Beirut.

Stateless in Beirut

Thousands of desperate Syrian refugees seek safety in Turkey after outbreak of fresh fighting

Renewed fighting in northern Syria since June 3 has sent a further 23,135 refugees fleeing across the border into Turkey's southern Sanliurfa province. Some 70 per cent of these are women and children, according to information received by UNHCR this week.

Most of the new arrivals are Syrians escaping fighting between rival military forces in and around the key border town of Tel Abyad, which faces Akcakale across the border. They join some 1.77 million Syrian refugees already in Turkey.

However, the influx also includes so far 2,183 Iraqis from the cities of Mosul, Ramadi and Falujjah.

According to UNHCR field staff most of the refugees are exhausted and arrive carrying just a few belongings. Some have walked for days. In recent days, people have fled directly to Akcakale to escape fighting in Tel Abyad which is currently reported to be calm.

Thousands of desperate Syrian refugees seek safety in Turkey after outbreak of fresh fighting

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

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