UNHCR mourns death of seven Syrian refugees killed in Jordan fire

News Stories, 17 January 2013

© UNHCR/S.Malkawi
A Syrian refugee prepares coffee in housing near the Jordanian town of Ramtha. Wednesday's tragic fire took place near Ramtha.

GENEVA, January 17 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency today expressed its sadness at the death of seven Syrian refugees in a fire at a transit centre in the Jordanian border town of Ramtha. Six of the dead were children.

A UNHCR press release from Geneva said the victims were all members of the same family and were sleeping in prefabricated housing when it was engulfed by fire on Wednesday night. Four survivors were rushed from the King Abdullah Park transit centre to the nearest hospital, where they are being treated for burns and smoke inhalation.

"Initial investigations by the local authorities indicate that the fire was started by a kerosene heater," said the statement, which added that the King Abdullah Park transit centre hosts more than 900 Syrian refugees, all staying in prefabricated shelters.

"These deaths are heartbreaking for the humanitarian community in Jordan. The loss of children was particularly tragic," the press release said.

UNHCR and its partners in Jordan have regular fire-awareness campaigns in all transit camps in Jordan, as well as at the main camp at Za'atri. Jordan is hosting more than 185,000 Syrians registered as refugees or waiting to be registered. Some 58,000 of them, or about a third, are living in camps.

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Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

As world concern grows over the plight of hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrians, including more than 200,000 refugees, UNHCR staff are working around the clock to provide vital assistance in neighbouring countries. At the political level, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres was due on Thursday (August 30) to address a closed UN Security Council session on Syria.

Large numbers have crossed into Lebanon to escape the violence in Syria. By the end of August, more than 53,000 Syrians across Lebanon had registered or received appointments to be registered. UNHCR's operations for Syrian refugees in Tripoli and the Bekaa Valley resumed on August 28 after being briefly suspended due to insecurity.

Many of the refugees are staying with host families in some of the poorest areas of Lebanon or in public buildings, including schools. This is a concern as the school year starts soon. UNHCR is urgently looking for alternative shelter. The majority of the people looking for safety in Lebanon are from Homs, Aleppo and Daraa and more than half are aged under 18. As the conflict in Syria continues, the situation of the displaced Syrians in Lebanon remains precarious.

Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

Turkish Camps Provide Shelter to 90,000 Syrian Refugees

By mid-September, more than 200,000 Syrian refugees had crossed the border into Turkey. UNHCR estimates that half of them are children, and many have seen their homes destroyed in the conflict before fleeing to the border and safety.

The Turkish authorities have responded by building well-organized refugee camps along southern Turkey's border with Syria. These have assisted 120,000 refugees since the crisis conflict erupted in Syria. There are currently 12 camps hosting 90,000 refugees, while four more are under construction. The government has spent approximately US$300 million to date, and it continues to manage the camps and provide food and medical services.

The UN refugee agency has provided the Turkish government with tents, blankets and kitchen sets for distribution to the refugees. UNHCR also provides advice and guidelines, while staff from the organization monitor voluntary repatriation of refugees.

Most of the refugees crossing into Turkey come from areas of northern Syria, including the city of Aleppo. Some initially stayed in schools or other public buildings, but they have since been moved into the camps, where families live in tents or container homes and all basic services are available.

Turkish Camps Provide Shelter to 90,000 Syrian Refugees

Displaced inside Syria: UNHCR and its Dedicated Staff help the Needy

The violence inside Syria continues to drive people from their homes, with some seeking shelter elsewhere in their country and others risking the crossing into neighbouring countries. The United Nations estimates that up to 4 million people are in need of help, including some 2 million believed to be internally displaced.

The UN refugee agency has 350 staff working inside Syria. Despite the insecurity, they continue to distribute vital assistance in the cities of Damascus, Aleppo, Al Hassakeh and Homs. Thanks to their work and dedication, more than 350,000 people have received non-food items such as blankets, kitchen sets and mattresses. These are essential items for people who often flee their homes with no more than the clothes on their backs. Cash assistance has been given to more than 10,600 vulnerable Syrian families.

Displaced inside Syria: UNHCR and its Dedicated Staff help the Needy

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