UN Refugee Chief urges support for Lebanon as risk grows that Syria conflict could cross borders

Press Releases, 18 June 2013

18 June 2013 UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres kicked off a visit to the region to mark World Refugee Day by meeting with leaders and refugees in Lebanon today. Mr Guterres sounded the alarm about the massive support needed for refugees and for the countries and communities hosting them. He noted that the long-feared spillover of the Syrian crisis into neighboring countries is becoming a "harsh reality" that must be addressed "to prevent the flames of war from spreading across the Middle East."

Presenting the largest ever humanitarian funding plan for Lebanon, Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Mr. Guterres appealed to a room full of international donors for $1.7 billion dollars that will be required for Lebanon. Forming part of the updated Syria Regional Response Plan (RRP5), the appeal for Lebanon includes $450 million for the government of Lebanon's own response capacity community for its support so far and highlighted the increasing challenges Lebanon is facing.

Amid worsening violence, the number of Syrians fleeing to Lebanon is projected to reach well over one million by the end of 2013. The pressure on local communities is overwhelming. "Lebanon is a small country with a big heart," Mr. Guterres told reporters in Beirut. "There is not a village, city or town in Lebanon that is not hosting Syrian refugees," he added. Echoing this concern, Lebanon's Minister of Social Affairs Wael Abou Faour said that "Lebanon alone cannot cope with the Syrian refugee crisis. We are talking about Lebanon's stability."

In a statement, Mr. Guterres noted that, from the beginning, the crisis in Syria has posed a threat to regional peace and security. "This threat is now becoming a harsh reality with an increasing risk of spillover of the conflict into neighboring countries," he said. "The international community must overcome its divisions and come together to stop the fighting if we want to prevent the flames of war from spreading across the Middle East."

"Lebanon and other neighboring countries need massive support so that they can continue to receive and help so many refugees and preserve stability," the High Commissioner said. "It is very important to support humanitarian organizations. But it is just as important to directly support the government, the relevant Ministries and local communities."

While in Beirut Mr. Guterres also met with the Lebanese President, Michel Sleiman. Mr Guterres will continue his visit to the region in Jordan on 19 20 June. World Refugee Day is marked every year on 20 June.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Beirut, Dana Sleiman on mobile +961 3 827 323
  • On mission in Beirut/Amman, Melissa Fleming on mobile +41 79 557 9122
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From Paris With Love, Toys for Syrian Children

Every year, the Quai Branly Museum in Paris organizes a collection of toys from schoolchildren in Paris and, with a little help from UNHCR and other key partners, sends them to refugee children who have lost so much.

The beneficiaries this year were scores of Syrian children living in two camps in Turkey, one of the major host countries for the more than 1.4 million Syrians who have fled their country with or without their families. Most of these traumatized young people have lost their own belongings in the rubble of Syria.

Last week, staff from the museum, UNHCR and the Fédération des Associations d'Anciens du Scoutisme gathered up the toys and packed them into 60 boxes. They were then flown to Turkey by Aviation Sans Frontières (Aviation without Borders) and taken to the kindergarten and nursery schools in Nizip-1 and Nizip-2 camps near the city of Gaziantep.

A gift from more fortunate children in the French capital, the toys brought a ray of sunshine into the lives of some young Syrian refugees and reminded them that their peers in the outside world do care.

These images of the toy distribution were taken by photographer Aytac Akad and UNHCR's Selin Unal.

From Paris With Love, Toys for Syrian Children

Angelina Jolie visits Syrian and Iraqi refugees in the Middle East

In her new role as UNHCR Special Envoy, Angelina Jolie has made five trips to visit refugees so far this year. She travelled to Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey in September 2012 to meet some of the tens of thousands of Syrians who have fled conflict in their homeland and sought shelter in neighbouring countries. Jolie wrapped up her Middle East visit in Iraq, where she met Syrian refugees in the north as well as internally displaced Iraqis and refugee returnees to Baghdad.

The following unpublished photos were taken during her visit to the Middle East and show her meeting with Syrian and Iraqi refugees.

Angelina Jolie visits Syrian and Iraqi refugees in the Middle East

Erbil's Children: Syrian Refugees in Urban Iraq

Some of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees are children who have sought shelter in urban areas with their families. Unlike those in camps, refugees living in towns and cities in countries like Iraq, Turkey and Jordan often find it difficult to gain access to aid and protection. In a refugee camp, it is easier for humanitarian aid organizations such as UNHCR to provide shelter and regular assistance, including food, health care and education. Finding refugees in urban areas, let alone helping them, is no easy task.

In Iraq, about 100,000 of the 143,000 Syrian refugees are believed to be living in urban areas - some 40 per cent of them are children aged under 18 years. The following photographs, taken in the northern city of Erbil by Brian Sokol, give a glimpse into the lives of some of these young urban refugees. They show the harshness of daily life as well as the resilience, adaptability and spirit of young people whose lives have been overturned in the past two years.

Life is difficult in Erbil, capital of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The cost of living is high and it is difficult to find work. The refugees must also spend a large part of their limited resources on rent. UNHCR and its partners, including the Kurdish Regional Government, struggle to help the needy.

Erbil's Children: Syrian Refugees in Urban Iraq