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Humanitarian agencies appeal for US$1 billion as Syrian refugee exodus grows

Press Releases, 19 December 2012

Geneva, 19 December 2012

The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, and its partners today appealed to international donors for US$1 billion to support refugees fleeing Syria to Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt.

The new Regional Response Plan for Syrian Refugees sets out the funding needs of 55 humanitarian organizations in providing vital protection and assistance for civilians fleeing Syria during the first six months of 2013.

"This massive humanitarian crisis requires urgent support from governments, businesses and private individuals, said Panos Moumtzis, UNHCR's Regional Coordinator for Syrian Refugees. "Unless these funds come quickly we will not be able to fully respond to the lifesaving needs of civilians who flee Syria every hour of the day many in a truly desperate condition."

The new US$1 billion appeal is based on planning estimates that up to 1 million Syrian refugees will need help during the first half of 2013.

Currently in the countries immediately surrounding Syria 525,000 Syrians have either registered as refugees or are being assisted. This is a seven-fold increase since May when just 70,000 Syrians had registered for help. Many more Syrians are in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt, but have not yet registered.

"We are constantly shocked by the horrific stories refugees tell us," said Mr. Moumtzis. "Their lives are in turmoil. They have lost their homes and family members. By the time they reach the borders, they are exhausted, traumatised and with little or no resources to rely on."

The 2013 plan aims at redoubling efforts to protect vulnerable refugees, with a big emphasis on community outreach to refugees living in urban environments. Much of this work is conducted by the 43 national and international NGOs included in the appeal.

Specific activities focusing on children, women, the elderly and survivors of sexual and gender based violence are planned for.

"Children make up roughly half of the refugees crowded into camps and host communities across five countries, and their numbers rise inexorably," said Maria Calivis, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa. "The evolving situation on the ground has outpaced our efforts to raise the necessary funds. Today, a further response to the desperate plight of Syrian children is once more urgently required."

Since July Syrian refugees have fled the conflict for neighbouring countries at a rate of 2-3,000 a day. The 2013 plan prioritizes support for new arrivals, assistance to hosting communities and plans for construction of new camps.

As the crisis continues to deteriorate inside Syria, there is significant attention given to emergency preparedness in the plan, with regional warehouses being restocked with tents, blankets and basic household items.

This plan includes Egypt for the first time. To date 10,474 Syrians are registered by UNHCR. According to government figures tens of thousands more are in the country. Another new development in the plan is support for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) activities for Palestinians who have fled Syria for Lebanon.

This appeal is the fourth update of the Syria Regional Response Plan, first launched in March 2012. The 2012 Regional Response Plan for Syrian refugees received 70% of the US$487 million appealed for.

Statistics:

LEBANON (17 December)

Number of Syrians registered and pending registration with UNHCR: 159,277

JORDAN (17 December)

Number of Syrians registered and pending registration with UNHCR: 148,592

TURKEY (Government of Turkey figures dated 16 December)

Number of Syrians registered in camps: 141,240

IRAQ (16 December)

Number of Syrians registered with UNHCR: 66,048

EGYPT (16 December)

Number of Syrians registered with UNHCR: 10,474

Total number of Syrians registered and pending registration: 525,631

For further information:

  • Sybella Wilkes, wilkes@unhcr.org Tel: +41 22 739 7968
  • Patrick McCormick, pmccormick@unicef.org Tel: +41 22 909 5713

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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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In 2010, the Turkish border with Greece became the main entry point for people attempting by irregular methods to reach member states of the European Union, with over 132,000 arrivals. While some entered as migrants with the simple wish of finding a better life, a significant number fled violence or persecution in countries such as Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq and Somalia. The journey is perilous, with many reports of drowning when people board flimsy vessels and try to cross the Mediterranean Sea or the River Evros on the border between Greece and Turkey. The many deficiencies in the Greek asylum system are exacerbated by the pressure of tens of thousands of people awaiting asylum hearings. Reception facilities for new arrivals, including asylum-seekers, are woefully inadequate. Last year, UNHCR visited a number of overcrowded facilities where children, men and women were detained in cramped rooms with insufficient facilities. UNHCR is working with the Greek government to improve its asylum system and has called upon other European states to offer support.

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UNHCR started distributing emergency relief aid in devastated southern Lebanese villages in the second half of August. Items such as tents, plastic sheeting and blankets are being distributed to the most vulnerable. UNHCR supplies are being taken from stockpiles in Beirut, Sidon and Tyre and continue to arrive in Lebanon by air, sea and road.

Although 90 percent of the displaced returned within days of the August 14 ceasefire, many Lebanese have been unable to move back into their homes and have been staying with family or in shelters, while a few thousand have remained in Syria.

Since the crisis began in mid-July, UNHCR has moved 1,553 tons of supplies into Syria and Lebanon for the victims of the fighting. That has included nearly 15,000 tents, 154,510 blankets, 53,633 mattresses and 13,474 kitchen sets. The refugee agency has imported five trucks and 15 more are en route.

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