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UN High Commissioner for Refugees welcomes EU funding support of €400 million for Syria crisis

Press Releases, 6 June 2013

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres today welcomed the announcement by the EU of a major new contribution of €400 million for the Syria situation in 2013.

The funding announced by the EU is among the largest so far to the Syria crisis by any donor. The €400 million is expected to go towards the regional refugee response as well as humanitarian needs inside Syria. UNHCR understands that €250 million will be used to provide life-saving humanitarian assistance in Syria and neighboring countries while €150 million is allotted for development-related aid that includes support to communities hosting refugees and security for refugee camps.

"This funding is extremely important and very, very timely," said High Commissioner Guterres. "Syria is fast becoming one of the most tragic, most dangerous, and largest crises since the end of the Cold War, and it is causing suffering on an enormous scale. The urgency of needs is difficult to overstate."

The Syria situation has grown rapidly in recent months, with thousands of people fleeing across borders daily, and placing strain on neighbouring countries as they cope with the inflows. UN humanitarian agencies are expected to announce on Friday (June 7) a major new funding push, among which will be an appeal for targeted funds in support of two of the largest refugee-hosting countries, Jordan and Lebanon.

In view of the extraordinary scale and nature of the crisis, and to prevent exhaustion of donor funding for the world's other current displacement emergencies among them Mali, Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, and Myanmar High Commissioner Guterres, along with his counterparts at OCHA, WFP and UNICEF, has in recent months appealed to governments worldwide to establish dedicated budgets for Syria.

Mr. Guterres today reiterated this appeal.

"We are facing a catastrophic situation in Syria, but we must not forget that on a daily basis thousands of people are being forcibly displaced in other regions and countries where there is conflict," he said. "I encourage other donors to come forward as the European Union has done today."

For more information, please contact:

In Brussels:

  • Vanessa Saenen: +32 2 627 5932 or +32 476 42 01 34

In Geneva:

  • Melissa Fleming: +41 79 557 9122 fleming@unhcr.org
  • Adrian Edwards: +41 79 557 9120 edwards@unhcr.org
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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

Abdu finds his voice in Germany

When bombs started raining down on Aleppo, Syria, in 2012, the Khawan family had to flee. According to Ahmad, the husband of Najwa and father of their two children, the town was in ruins within 24 hours.

The family fled to Lebanon where they shared a small flat with Ahmad's two brothers and sisters and their children. Ahmad found sporadic work which kept them going, but he knew that in Lebanon his six-year-old son, Abdu, who was born deaf, would have little chance for help.

The family was accepted by Germany's Humanitarian Assistance Programme and resettled into the small central German town of Wächtersbach, near Frankfurt am Main. Nestled in a valley between two mountain ranges and a forest, the village has an idyllic feel.

A year on, Abdu has undergone cochlear implant surgery for the second time. He now sports two new hearing aids which, when worn together, allow him to hear 90 per cent. He has also joined a regular nursery class, where he is learning for the first time to speak - German in school and now Arabic at home. Ahmed is likewise studying German in a nearby village, and in two months he will graduate with a language certificate and start looking for work. He says that he is proud at how quickly Abdu is learning and integrating.

Abdu finds his voice in Germany

A Teenager in Exile

Like fathers and sons everywhere, Fewaz and Malak sometimes struggle to coexist. A new haircut and a sly cigarette are all it takes to raise tensions in the cramped apartment they currently call home. But, despite this, a powerful bond holds them together: refugees from Syria, they have been stranded for almost a year in an impoverished neighbourhood of Athens.

They fled their home with the rest of the family in the summer of 2012, after war threw their previously peaceful life into turmoil. From Turkey, they made several perilous attempts to enter Greece.

Thirteen-year-old Malak was the first to make it through the Evros border crossing. But Fewaz, his wife and their two other children were not so lucky at sea, spending their life savings on treacherous voyages on the Mediterranean only to be turned back by the Greek coastguard.

Finally, on their sixth attempt, the rest of the family crossed over at Evros. While his wife and two children travelled on to Germany, Fewaz headed to Athens to be reunited with Malak.

"When I finally saw my dad in Athens, I was so happy that words can't describe," says Malak. However, the teenager is haunted by the possibility of losing his father again. "I am afraid that if my dad is taken, what will I do without him?"

Until the family can be reunited, Malak and his father are determined to stick together. The boy is learning to get by in Greek. And Fewaz is starting to get used to his son's haircut.

A Teenager in Exile

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