Number of Syrian refugees tops 1.5 million mark with many more expected

News Stories, 17 May 2013

© UNHCR/J.Kohler
Syrian families continue to flee across borders. This photograph was taken at the Jordan border.

GENEVA, May 17 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency announced on Friday that the number of Syrian civilians who have fled their country to escape conflict has passed the 1.5 million mark. "The Syrian conflict continues to have a devastating impact on the lives of those who are forced to flee," added UNHCR spokesman Dan McNorton in Geneva.

He told journalists in Geneva that the real number was probably much higher, adding that "this is due to concerns that some Syrians have regarding registration."

The widening gap between the needs and resources available is a growing challenge, McNorton stressed. UNHCR has registered close to 1 million refugees since the beginning of the year this is about 250,000 people each month. Early next month, the UN and NGOs are due to announce a revised funding appeal for the Syria crisis.

"Refugees tell us the increased fighting and changing of control of towns and villages, in particular in conflict areas, results in more and more civilians deciding to leave. Over the past four months we have seen a rapid deterioration when compared to the previous 20 months of this conflict," McNorton said.

Inside Syria, meanwhile, UNHCR continued this week to follow up on the needs and situation of several hundred families displaced in the village of Zamarin, on the outskirts of Tartus, a city on the Mediterranean coast. They fled Banias district in Lattakia governorate, where clashes erupted in early May. Some families found shelter in a mosque and local schools, but the majority have been hosted by families in Zamarin.

These families received UNHCR emergency relief assistance last week, including blankets, mattresses, hygiene kits, children's nappies and sanitary napkins. Many families have reportedly returned to Banias, where children have to take their exams very soon.

The UNHCR aid, part of a UN inter-agency effort, benefitted 3,000 people and was distributed from May 4-11 by the refugee agency's partners. UNHCR has been present in Tartus since early April and is permanently present in five cities the others are Damascus, Aleppo, Hassakeh and Homs. Overall in Syria, UNHCR's relief assistance has reached 860,000 displaced Syrians since the beginning of the year.

In Lebanon, UNHCR has stepped up its capacity to register refugees. "Every day over 4,200 people approach our offices for registration. In April, over 90,000 refugees were registered in our centres. This is more than a ten-fold increase when compared to the same month in 2012," McNorton noted.

Waiting periods for registration have also decreased with an average waiting time of 16-30 days throughout the country, apart from the south where UNHCR's registration centre has just become operational. But there too, each week the waiting period for refugees is decreasing.

The UNHCR Lebanon office is also reducing the backlog by more than 8,000 individuals per week. UNHCR has opened new registration centres. The agency is using enhanced registration mechanisms, ensuring that individual protection interviews still take place, providing transportation assistance to refugees and expanding the number of shifts.

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The recording, verifying, and updating of information on people of concern to UNHCR so they can be protected and UNHCR can ultimately find durable solutions.

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

Lebanese Returnees Receive Aid

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.

Posted on 29 August 2006

Lebanese Returnees Receive Aid

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie meets Iraqi refugees in Syria

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie returned to the Syrian capital Damascus on 2 October, 2009 to meet Iraqi refugees two years after her last visit. The award-winning American actress, accompanied by her partner Brad Pitt, took the opportunity to urge the international community not to forget the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees who remain in exile despite a relative improvement in the security situation in their homeland. Jolie said most Iraqi refugees cannot return to Iraq in view of the severe trauma they experienced there, the uncertainty linked to the coming Iraqi elections, the security issues and the lack of basic services. They will need continued support from the international community, she said. The Goodwill Ambassador visited the homes of two vulnerable Iraqi families in the Jaramana district of southern Damascus. She was particularly moved during a meeting with a woman from a religious minority who told Jolie how she was physically abused and her son tortured after being abducted earlier this year in Iraq and held for days. They decided to flee to Syria, which has been a generous host to refugees.

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie meets Iraqi refugees in Syria

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