UNHCR urges countries to offer admission to 100,000 Syrians from next year

News Stories, 21 February 2014

© UNHCR/M.Hofer
A Syrian boy photographed at a refugee transit site in Arsal, Lebanon. UNHCR is urging countries to offer increased resettlement or other forms of admission, including scholarships, to Syrian refugees.

GENEVA, February 21 |(UNHCR) The UN refugee agency on Friday called upon countries around the world to make multi-annual commitments towards a goal of providing resettlement and other forms of admission for an additional 100,000 Syrian refugees in 2015 and 2016.

UNHCR had earlier called upon states to offer resettlement or other forms of admission to 30,000 of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees by the end of 2014. To date, 20 countries have offered more than 18,800 places towards this goal. "UNHCR remains confident that the 30,000 goal will be met by the end of the year through a significant number of submissions to the United States," spokesman Dan McNorton told journalists in Geneva.

UNHCR anticipates that, in the coming years, there will be increasing numbers of vulnerable Syrian refugees who will be in need of resettlement, relocation or other forms of humanitarian admission. "In light of the growing needs of the Syrian refugee population, the goal of 30,000 in 2014 represents only the first benchmark in securing solutions for this group," said McNorton.

As part of the emergency response, UNHCR is urging states to consider a number of solutions that can provide secure, urgent and effective protection for these people. Such solutions could include resettlement, humanitarian admission or individual sponsorship.

McNorton explained that states could also offer other kinds of solutions, including programmes that enable Syrian relatives to join family members; scholarships for Syrian students in order to prevent a "lost generation" of young people; and medical evacuation for refugees with life-threatening health conditions. "We appeal to the international community to continue providing longer-term solutions for Syrian refugees who are most urgently in need," the spokesman said.

There are currently more than 2.4 million refugees registered in the region. In Lebanon there are some 932,000, Jordan has 574,000, Turkey some 613,000, Iraq 223,000 and Egypt has about 134,000 refugees.

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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.

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Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

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Large numbers have crossed into Lebanon to escape the violence in Syria. By the end of August, more than 53,000 Syrians across Lebanon had registered or received appointments to be registered. UNHCR's operations for Syrian refugees in Tripoli and the Bekaa Valley resumed on August 28 after being briefly suspended due to insecurity.

Many of the refugees are staying with host families in some of the poorest areas of Lebanon or in public buildings, including schools. This is a concern as the school year starts soon. UNHCR is urgently looking for alternative shelter. The majority of the people looking for safety in Lebanon are from Homs, Aleppo and Daraa and more than half are aged under 18. As the conflict in Syria continues, the situation of the displaced Syrians in Lebanon remains precarious.

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By mid-September, more than 200,000 Syrian refugees had crossed the border into Turkey. UNHCR estimates that half of them are children, and many have seen their homes destroyed in the conflict before fleeing to the border and safety.

The Turkish authorities have responded by building well-organized refugee camps along southern Turkey's border with Syria. These have assisted 120,000 refugees since the crisis conflict erupted in Syria. There are currently 12 camps hosting 90,000 refugees, while four more are under construction. The government has spent approximately US$300 million to date, and it continues to manage the camps and provide food and medical services.

The UN refugee agency has provided the Turkish government with tents, blankets and kitchen sets for distribution to the refugees. UNHCR also provides advice and guidelines, while staff from the organization monitor voluntary repatriation of refugees.

Most of the refugees crossing into Turkey come from areas of northern Syria, including the city of Aleppo. Some initially stayed in schools or other public buildings, but they have since been moved into the camps, where families live in tents or container homes and all basic services are available.

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