Ministerial coordination meeting of major host countries for Syrian refugees in Jordan

Press Releases, 4 May 2014

Government ministers from Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt together with UNHCR met today to appeal for significantly heightened efforts to address the growing human impact of the Syria crisis.

The high-level meeting was co-chaired by H.E Mr. Nasser Judeh, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, who were joined by H.E Mr. Hoshyar Zebari, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Iraq; H.E Mr. Rashid Derbas, Minister for Social Affairs of the Lebanese Republic and H.E Mr. Ahmet Davutoğlu, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey and H.E Hamdi Loza, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Arab Republic of Egypt as part of a high-level regional coordination effort between UNHCR and major refugee-hosting countries in response to the largest refugee outflow in nearly 20 years.

The Ministers and the High Commissioner for Refugees recognized that Syria has become the largest crisis of forcible displacement in the world, and that this is posing a growing threat to regional peace and security. They noted that the burden of hosting Syrian refugees has been disproportionately shouldered by the five host countries, and that many host communities have seen their own resources stretched to a breaking point.

The Ministers and the High Commissioner for Refugees reaffirmed the outcomes of a high-level meeting that took place in Turkey on 17 January at Şanlıurfa Harran Kökenli Camp in Turkey and the conference on solidarity and burden-sharing with countries hosting Syrian refugees, which took place during UNHCR's Executive Committee session in early October 2013.

The Ministers and the High Commissioner for Refugees reiterated the imperative for much higher levels of international solidarity and burden sharing to the more than 2.7 million Syrian refugees in the region and their host communities. They noted the continued need for massive international support, including increased bilateral support and financial and development assistance to help hosting countries cope with the escalating demands placed on national services and infrastructure as a result of the refugee influx. They also appealed to development actors and financial institutions to scale up their support to refugee hosting countries.

The Ministers and the High Commissioner for Refugees based on the principle of solidarity and burden sharing urged all other countries outside the region to keep their borders open for Syrians seeking protection and to facilitate their legal access to their territories. In this regard, they also called on these countries to offer more flexible visa regimes, open family reunification procedures and expanded resettlement and humanitarian admission programmes.

The Ministers and the High Commissioner for Refugees recalled the unacceptable and continued cost of war to civilians, and mourn the profound loss suffered by the Syrian people. They recalled Security Council resolution 2139 (2014), and called for its immediate and full implementation to assure the safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance to the more than nine million people who need help.

The Ministers and the High Commissioner for Refugees called for greater assistance inside Syria and underlined the need to create an environment conducive to the safe and dignified return of Syrians.

The Ministers and the High Commissioner for Refugees stressed that there is no humanitarian solution to this political crisis, and underlined the need for a political solution‎ to end the human suffering, emphasizing that there can be no military solution to the crisis in Syria.

They declared that, in the absence of a political solution, the only outcome of this continued conflict is further suffering of the Syrian people and that it is morally and politically imperative that the international community overcomes its differences and unites to put a stop to the bloodshed.

The Ministers and the High Commissioner for Refugees agreed that the protracted nature of the crisis in Syria necessitates the formulation of new and innovative approaches to address the ever-increasing challenges faced by host countries.

The Ministers and the High Commissioner for Refugees noted that the 2014 Regional Response Plan appeal is only 25% funded and urged donor countries to continue their support as the situation worsens. The US $1 billion of funding received so far has helped enable hosting countries, UNHCR and its partners to provide life-saving assistance to millions of people. They noted that the direct financial support requested for the host countries under the appeal was also underfunded.

They urged donors to fulfill pledges made at the second International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria held in Kuwait in January this year and to strongly support governments directly and their different national resilience and development plans put in place to respond to the dramatic impact of the Syria crisis on the economies and societies of neighboring States.

They expressed their gratitude to Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan for hosting this meeting and welcomed the offer by the Republic of Lebanon to host the next meeting. They declared their solidarity and support to the government of Lebanon during these exceptional times. They also expressed the need to implement programmes aimed at supporting host communities in Lebanon, Jordan.

For more information please contact:

  • Melissa Fleming, in Jordan on mission, on mobile +41 79 557 9122
  • Hélène Daubelcour, in Jordan, on mobile +962 79 889 1307
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Haunted by a sinking ship

Thamer and Thayer are two brothers from Syria who risked their lives in the hope of reaching Europe. The sea voyage was fraught with danger. But home had become a war zone.

Before the conflict, they led a simple life in a small, tight-knit community they describe as "serene". Syria offered them hope and a future. Then conflict broke out and they were among the millions forced to flee, eventually finding their way to Libya and making a desperate decision.

At a cost of US$ 2,000 each, they boarded a boat with over 200 others and set sail for Italy. They knew that capsizing was a very real possibility. But they hadn't expected bullets, fired by militiamen and puncturing their boat off the coast of Lampedusa.

As water licked their ankles, the brothers clung to one another in the chaos. "I saw my life flash before my eyes," recalls Thayer. "I saw my childhood. I saw people from when I was young. Things I thought I no longer remembered."

After ten terrifying hours, the boat capsized in the Mediterranean Sea, throwing occupants overboard. Rescue, when it finally came, was too late for many.

Theirs was the second of two deadly shipwrecks off the coast of Lampedusa last October. Claiming hundreds of lives, the disasters sparked a debate on asylum policy in Europe, leading Italian authorities to launch the Mare Nostrum search and rescue operation. To date, it has saved more than 80,000 people in distress at sea.

Eight months on, having applied for asylum in a sleepy coastal town in western Sicily, Thamer and Thayer are waiting to restart their lives.

"We want to make our own lives and move on," they explain.

Haunted by a sinking ship

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

Jihan's Story

Like millions, 34-year-old Jihan was willing to risk everything in order to escape war-torn Syria and find safety for her family. Unlike most, she is blind.

Nine months ago, she fled Damascus with her husband, Ashraf, 35, who is also losing his sight. Together with their two sons, they made their way to Turkey, boarding a boat with 40 others and setting out on the Mediterranean Sea. They hoped the journey would take eight hours. There was no guarantee they would make it alive.

After a treacherous voyage that lasted 45 hours, the family finally arrived at a Greek island in the Aegean Sea, called Milos - miles off course. Without support or assistance, they had to find their own way to Athens.

The police detained them for four days upon their arrival. They were cautioned to stay out of Athens, as well as three other Greek cities, leaving them stranded.

By now destitute and exhausted, the family were forced to split up - with Ashraf continuing the journey northwards in search of asylum and Jihan taking their two sons to Lavrion, an informal settlement about an hour's drive from the Greek capital.

Today, Jihan can only wait to be reunited with her husband, who has since been granted asylum in Denmark. The single room she shares with her two sons, Ahmed, 5, and Mohammad, 7, is tiny, and she worries about their education. Without an urgent, highly complex corneal transplant, her left eye will close forever.

"We came here for a better life and to find people who might better understand our situation," she says, sadly. "I am so upset when I see how little they do [understand]."

Jihan's Story

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