Turkey experiences major refugee influx

Briefing Notes, 11 February 2014

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 11 February 2014, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

More than 20,000 Syrian refugees have arrived in Turkey since the start of the year in the biggest influx since early 2013. Over recent days more than 500 persons have been arriving daily across official crossing points, sometimes as many as 1,000-2,000 daily.

This new influx appears to be spurred in part by the upsurge in fighting reported across the border in northern Syria, particularly in and around Aleppo, and the conflict among opposition groups, as well.

About one-third of the recent influx, some 7,000 persons, is accommodated in camps. Turkey opened its 22nd camp in early January and authorities are considering opening further new camps to help cope with the new influx.

The influx of more than 20,000 since the first of January adds to the already existing pressure on Turkey's emergency refugee response. UNHCR is discussing with the authorities additional emergency support to help Turkey to cope with this recent influx.

Additional Syrian refugees are awaiting registration in urban areas in Turkey; many of them are believed to be in vulnerable condition and in need of urgent assistance. UNHCR is supporting the government of Turkey including through support to registration, technical assistance, distribution of core relief items to people in camps as well as the most vulnerable outside of camps and cash assistance to the most vulnerable. UNHCR maintains emergency stocks inside and outside Turkey that can be used to supplement governmental aid supplies as needed.

UNHCR continues to appeal to all states in the Syria region to keep their frontiers open to refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria.

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A Face in a Million: the Struggle of Syria's Refugees in Lebanon

They are everywhere in Lebanon - 1 million Syrian refugees, in a land of 4.8 million people. There are no refugee camps in Lebanon. Instead, most rent apartments and others live in makeshift shelters and in garages, factories and prisons. Three years after the Syria crisis began, Lebanon has become the country with the highest concentration per capita of refugees in the world. It's struggling to keep pace with the influx. Rents have spiked, accommodation is scarce; food prices are rising. Meanwhile, a generation could be lost. Half of Syria's refugees are children; most don't go to school. Instead many of them work to help their families survive. Some marry early, others must beg to make a bit of money. Yet they share the same dream of getting an education.

In the northern city of Tripoli, many of the Syrians live in Al Tanak district, dubbed "Tin City." Long home to poor locals, it is now a surreal suburb - garbage piled to one side, a Ferris wheel on the other. The inhabitants share their dwellings with rats. "They're as big as cats," said one. "They're not scared of us, we're scared of them."

Award-winning photojournalist Lynsey Addario visited Tin City and other areas of Lebanon with UNHCR to show the faces and suffering of Syrians to the world. Addario, in publications such as The New York Times and National Geographic, has highlighted the victims of conflict and rights abuse around the world, particularly women.

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When Ashraf was about 18 months old, his aunt, uncle and cousin were murdered - their throats slit - as the boy slept nearby in his family's home. Terrified that they were next, Ashraf's family crammed into their car, taking a few precious belongings, and drove to the border.

They left behind their home, built by Ashraf's father and uncle. Within days the house was looted and destroyed. Photographer Andrew McConnell visited the family at their new home, in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, which was also built by Ashraf's father and uncle. Located on the edge of a muddy field, it is a patchwork of plastic sheeting, canvas and scrap metal. The floor is covered with blankets and mattresses from UNHCR. They now face new challenges such as the daily battle to keep the children warm, dry and protected from rats. Ashraf still starts at sudden loud noises, but the doctor told his mother that the boy would get used to it.

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A month ago, Mahmoud started working for tips cleaning fish at a small shop next to his home. He makes about $60 USD a month. With this money he helps pay rent on his family's tiny underground room, shared between his parents and eight brothers and sisters. Mahmoud is proud to help his family but with the fish shop located in the same subterranean structure as his home, he barely goes out into the sunshine.

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UNHCR and its partners together with local governments are providing financial assistance to help vulnerable Syrian refugee families cover expenses like rent and medical care, which means there is less need to pull children out of school and put them to work. UN agencies and their partners have also established case management and referral systems in Jordan and Lebanon to identify children at risk and refer them to the appropriate services.

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