UNHCR urges Europe to do more to help Syrian refugees

News Stories, 11 July 2014

© UNHCR
Norway accelerated the resettlement of a Syrian refugee family because the baby Yousef needed urgent medical care. The family now lives in a house in Oslo and everyone is learning Norwegian.

GENEVA, 11 July (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency on Friday called for European nations to do more to help Syrian refugees who are trying in growing numbers to reach the safety of Europe.

A new report, Syrian Refugees in Europe: What Europe can do to Ensure Protection and Solidarity, found that Europe is shouldering only a small part of the Syrian refugee problem. Just four per cent of Syrian refugees have sought asylum in Europe.

Since the conflict began in March 2011, some 123,600 Syrians have sought asylum in Europe, not including Turkey. There are over 2.9 million refugees in countries immediately neighbouring Syria.

UNHCR urged states to ensure access to their territory, including fair and efficient asylum procedures; to provide adequate reception conditions; and to take other measures to provide protection and safety for refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria.

"An increasing number of Syrians are now seeking safety in countries beyond the immediate region," UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming told reporters. "Many are embarking on long and dangerous journeys to reach safety and in some cases to reunite with family members already in Europe."

In the EU, Syrian asylum-seekers are mostly concentrated in a few states: Sweden and Germany received 56 per cent of all new Syrian asylum applications, and the top five receiving countries (Sweden, Germany, Bulgaria, Switzerland and the Netherlands) received almost 70 per cent.

The number of Syrians reaching Europe by sea increased in 2013, with Syrians among the main nationalities rescued in the Mediterranean 11,307 Syrians by Italy alone in 2013. The numbers crossing by sea has risen again this year.

A high number of Syrians arrive in many European countries intending to proceed to other destinations. Reasons behind the onward movement are complex: inadequate reception conditions, difficulties accessing the asylum procedure, family links in other countries and an expectation of better assistance and integration prospects in other countries.

"Today's report urges countries across Europe to implement a comprehensive response based on their responsibilities under international and regional law and to clearly demonstrate solidarity with countries in the region," Fleming said at a news briefing. "This includes enhancing legal ways for Syrian refugees to reach Europe."

UNHCR welcomed the treatment of Syrians by many European states, including the de facto moratorium on returns to Syria, access to asylum procedures in most countries and the high protection rates granted to Syrians.

However, the report also highlighted gaps and practices that concern UNHCR. These include pushbacks at land and sea borders reported in Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Spain, Albania, Montenegro, the Russian Federation, Serbia and Ukraine.

There was also concern at slow access to effective asylum procedures, inadequate reception conditions, backlogs in asylum procedures, barriers to family reunification, the lack of mechanisms to identify and assist asylum-seekers with vulnerabilities, and use of detention.

UNHCR wants countries to look at all options, including resettlement, admission based on humanitarian needs, admission schemes based on private sponsorship and the use of programmes such as student or employment visas. UNHCR urged states to actively facilitate family reunification, including for extended family members of Syrians who have already been granted some form of protection in Europe.

European countries have to date offered 31,817 places for resettlement, humanitarian and other forms of admission for refugees from Syria. UNHCR has called on states to provide resettlement and other forms of admission for 100,000 Syrians in 2015 and 2016.

Read the report http://www.refworld.org/docid/53b69f574.html

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UNHCR country pages

Advocacy

Advocacy is a key element in UNHCR activities to protect people of concern.

Resettlement

An alternative for those who cannot go home, made possible by UNHCR and governments.

UNHCR Resettlement Handbook and Country Chapters

July 2011 edition of the UNHCR Resettlement Handbook.

Resettlement from Tunisia's Choucha Camp

Between February and October 2011, more than 1 million people crossed into Tunisia to escape conflict in Libya. Most were migrant workers who made their way home or were repatriated, but the arrivals included refugees and asylum-seekers who could not return home or live freely in Tunisia.

UNHCR has been trying to find solutions for these people, most of whom ended up in the Choucha Transit Camp near Tunisia's border with Libya. Resettlement remains the most viable solution for those registered as refugees at Choucha before a cut-off date of December 1, 2011.

As of late April, 14 countries had accepted 2,349 refugees for resettlement, 1,331 of whom have since left Tunisia. The rest are expected to leave Choucha later this year. Most have gone to Australia, Norway and the United States. But there are a more than 2,600 refugees and almost 140 asylum-seekers still in the camp. UNHCR continues to advocate with resettlement countries to find solutions for them.

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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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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.

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Turkish Camps Provide Shelter to 90,000 Syrian Refugees

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