Syria refugee numbers cross 1.5 million as funding gaps remain

Briefing Notes, 17 May 2013

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Dan McNorton to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 17 May 2013, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The number of Syrian refugees who have now left their country has surpassed 1.5 million. The Syrian conflict continues to have a devastating impact on the lives of those who are forced to flee.

The fact that more than 1.5 million people have registered or have appointments with UNHCR sadly means the actual number is much higher. This is due to concerns that some Syrians have regarding registration

The increasingly widening gap between the needs and resources available is a growing challenge. UNHCR has registered close to one million refugees since 1 January this year this is about a quarter of a million people each month.

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.

UNHCR continues to respond to the emergency needs of those in desperate need inside Syria and in neighbouring countries.


On the outskirts of Tartous inside Syria, UNHCR continued this week to follow up on the needs and situation of several hundred families displaced in the village of Zamarin.

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. Follow-up of the situation with partners in Zamarin show that many families have returned to Banias, where children have to take their exams very soon.

This assistance was part of a collaborative UN inter-agency effort. UNHCR aid benefitted 3,000 people and was distributed between the 4th to 11th May by partners. The items included blankets, mattresses, hygiene kits, children's diapers and sanitary napkins.

UNHCR has been present in Tartous 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 (non-food items only) has reached 860,000 displaced Syrians since the beginning of the year.


UNHCR's registration operation in Lebanon is one of the largest and most complex urban registration programmes in the world. In Lebanon, UNHCR has now 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.

Waiting periods for registration have also decreased with an average waiting time of between 16-30 days throughout the country, apart from the south where our 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 over 8,000 individuals per week.

UNHCR has opened new registration centres, is using enhanced registration mechanisms, ensuring that individual protection interviews still take place, providing transportation assistance to refugees, aswell as expanding the number of shifts we operate.

Latest regional figures:

REGIONAL number of Syrians registered and pending registration: 1,515,639

JORDAN as of 15 May

Number of Syrians registered and pending registration with UNHCR: 473,587

Registered / Pending registration: 390,371 / 83,216

LEBANON as of 15 May

Number of Syrians registered and pending registration with UNHCR: 470,457

Registered / Pending registration: 375,624 / 94,833

TURKEY based on Government of Turkey figures as of 15 May

Total number of Syrians registered in camps and in urban areas and Syrians awaiting registration in urban areas: 347,157

Registered / Pending registration: 316,772 / 30,385

IRAQ as of 15 May

Number of Syrians registered with UNHCR: 147,464

EGYPT as of 14 May

Number of Syrians registered and pending registration with UNHCR: 66,922

Registered / Pending registration: 48,429 / 18,493

North Africa as of 15 April

Number of Syrians registered with UNHCR: 10,052

For more information, please check the Syria Refugee Response portal:

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Beirut: Reem Alsalem on mobile + 961 71 911 388
  • In Amman: Tala Kattan on mobile: +962 79 978 3186
  • In Baghdad: Natalia Prokopchuk on mobile +964 780 921 7341
  • In Abu Dhabi: Mohammed Abu Asaker (Arabic) on mobile + 971 50 621 3552
  • In Geneva: Daniel McNorton on mobile +41 79 217 30 11



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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

Beyond the Border

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.

Beyond the Border

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

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