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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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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

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

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Lebanon: Memories

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Lebanon: The Elderly And The Young In The StormPlay video

Lebanon: The Elderly And The Young In The Storm

In Lebanon, a winter storm is taking its toll on the elderly and the very young, despite continued aid distributions. There are 402,000 registered refugees in the Bekaa Valley, who live in every conceivable type of shelter, although some are more vulnerable than others.
Jordan: Winter Camp VisitPlay video

Jordan: Winter Camp Visit

Syrian refugees living in Za'atari refugee camp in Jordan are still trying to overcome the damage done by the storm that hit the region last week. On his second day visiting Jordan, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres visited the camp to see the impact of the damage. He was also able to hand them the key to their new home, a caravan that arrived part of a convoy to help those living in tents at the camp.