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MEDIA ADVISORY: Guterres to join EU Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva on mission to Lebanon, Jordan

Briefing Notes, 14 December 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 14 December 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

High Commissioner Antonio Guterres travels to Beirut this afternoon to join Kristalina Georgieva, EU Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, for a two-day mission to Lebanon and Jordan. Their joint mission will include a visit to programs for refugees and host families in the two countries, which together have now received more than 300,000 registered Syrian refugees (Lebanon, 155,873; Jordan, 144,426).

On Saturday morning, Ms. Georgieva and Mr. Guterres will travel to the Bekaa to meet with Syrian refugees as well Lebanese families who are generously sharing their homes and resources. They will also meet various humanitarian agencies involved in aid delivery in the region. Later in the day they are scheduled to meet Prime Minister Nagib Miqati and hold a joint press conference before departing for Jordan. High Commissioner Guterres will spend a day in Jordan, departing Sunday afternoon. This will be his second mission to the region in three months.

The European Commission and the member states of the European Union are major supporters of UNHCR programs and together have provided more than half of all international aid for the Syrian crisis.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Amman: Ron Redmond (Regional Spokesman) on mobile +962 79 982 5867
  • In Geneva: Melissa Fleming on mobile: +41 79 557 9122
  • Adrian Edwards on mobile: +41 79 557 9120
  • Sybella Wilkes on mobile: 41 79 557 9138
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Jihan's Story

Like millions, 34-year-old Jihan was willing to risk everything in order to escape war-torn Syria and find safety for her family. Unlike most, she is blind.

Nine months ago, she fled Damascus with her husband, Ashraf, 35, who is also losing his sight. Together with their two sons, they made their way to Turkey, boarding a boat with 40 others and setting out on the Mediterranean Sea. They hoped the journey would take eight hours. There was no guarantee they would make it alive.

After a treacherous voyage that lasted 45 hours, the family finally arrived at a Greek island in the Aegean Sea, called Milos - miles off course. Without support or assistance, they had to find their own way to Athens.

The police detained them for four days upon their arrival. They were cautioned to stay out of Athens, as well as three other Greek cities, leaving them stranded.

By now destitute and exhausted, the family were forced to split up - with Ashraf continuing the journey northwards in search of asylum and Jihan taking their two sons to Lavrion, an informal settlement about an hour's drive from the Greek capital.

Today, Jihan can only wait to be reunited with her husband, who has since been granted asylum in Denmark. The single room she shares with her two sons, Ahmed, 5, and Mohammad, 7, is tiny, and she worries about their education. Without an urgent, highly complex corneal transplant, her left eye will close forever.

"We came here for a better life and to find people who might better understand our situation," she says, sadly. "I am so upset when I see how little they do [understand]."

Jihan's Story

The Charcoal Boys: Child Labour in Lebanon

Bebnine is one of many small towns in northern Lebanon that have seen an influx of Syrian refugees in recent months. Many of the new residents are children, whose education has been disrupted. A lot of them must work to support their families instead of studying to lay the foundations for a bright future. This set of photographs by Andrew McConnell, documents one group of boys who risk their health by working for a charcoal seller in Bebnine. Aged between 11 and 15 years old, they earn the equivalent of less than 70 US cents an hour filling, weighing and carrying sacks of charcoal. It's hard work and after an average eight-hour day they are covered in charcoal dust. Throughout the region, an estimated one in ten Syrian refugee children is engaged in child labour.

The Charcoal Boys: Child Labour in Lebanon

Za'atari Refugees Put Their Entrepreneurial Skills to Work

In Za'atari refugee camp, near the Syrian border in northern Jordan, a bustling market made up of barber shops, video game arcades, mobile phone stores and more is thriving, serving a resourceful population of almost 100,000 forcibly displaced people. What started out as a few shops selling second-hand clothing has developed into a shopper's delight of nearly 3,000 stores scattered across the camp. For locals strolling through what they dub the "Champs-Élysées," front load washers, pet birds, rotisserie chickens, lingerie and wedding dresses are just some of the diverse products on offer.

A UNHCR staff member who often visits the camp says all of the shops are illegal but tolerated, and the commerce has the added benefit of creating job opportunities and a more dynamic camp. Residents spend an estimated US$12 million in the camp's shopping district monthly. "Before it was really hard, but things are progressing and people are improving their shops," says Hamza, the co-owner of the Zoby Nut Shop. Photographer Shawn Baldwin visited the camp recently to capture its booming entrepreneurial spirit.

Za'atari Refugees Put Their Entrepreneurial Skills to Work

Emergency Resettlement – One Family's Journey to a New LifePlay video

Emergency Resettlement – One Family's Journey to a New Life

After their family fled Syria, young brothers Mohamed and Youssef still were not safe. Unable to access medical treatment for serious heart and kidney conditions, they and the rest of their family were accepted for emergency resettlement to Norway.
Lebanon: Fadia's StoryPlay video

Lebanon: Fadia's Story

A former nurse, Fadia found life as a refugee in Lebanon to be especially difficult without employment. She counts herself lucky to be living in a shelter paid for by aid agencies, but food and other necessities are harder to come by. Fadia's is one of 145,000 Syrian families in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and Iraq headed by women. Poverty, isolation and fear of exploitation are just some of the hardships they face.
The Fight for Survival – Syrian Women AlonePlay video

The Fight for Survival – Syrian Women Alone

Lina has not heard from her husband since he was detained in Syria two years ago. Now a refugee in Lebanon, she lives in a tented settlement with her seven children.