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Yazidis stream into Syria from Mount Sinjar, UNHCR steps up aid

Press Releases, 14 August 2014

In Syria, and as part of its response to the Yazidi situation in neighbouring Iraq, UNHCR has begun transporting newly arriving refugees from the border area to the Newroz camp near Al Qamishli, some 60 kilometres to the west.

Tens of thousands of mainly Yazidi people have now crossed the Semalka/Peshkabour border crossing, after transiting through Syria, into the Dohuk governorate of northern Iraq over the last 10 days. An increasing number of Yazidis (currently estimated at 15,000) are seeking refuge inside Syria where UNHCR is working with local NGOs and UN partners to provide aid.

The refugees arrive exhausted and deeply traumatized, their feet covered in blisters, having spent days on Mt Sinjar in searing temperatures without food, water or shelter after fleeing for their lives, then walking many hours in some cases days to find safety. They are extremely weak, thirsty, and hungry, especially the women and children, and many have untreated wounds.

"The Yazidi situation remains a very dynamic and challenging one, and it's of life-saving importance that people receive help and protection," said UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres. "We are doing all we can in very difficult circumstances to meet the urgent needs."

UNHCR has rushed tents, plastic sheets, blankets, hygiene kits and other household items to the Newroz camp from its stockpiles in Al Hassakeh province, where it has had a field presence since 2010 helping various waves of displaced people. More aid is on the way, including an airlift of 2000 tents and 5000 mattresses in the coming days to alleviate crowded conditions.

UNHCR began ferrying the newly arrived refugees the 60 kilometre journey from the border to the camp on Tuesday (12 August) at the request of the local camp managers and refugees themselves.

The Newroz camp currently hosts about 15,000 Yazidis from Iraq; hundreds more are staying in nearby villages and towns around Al Qahtaniyyeh and Ras Al Ain. After a few days at the camp, many refugees head back to Iraq to reunite with families in the Dohuk area of northern Kurdistan, but still thousands continue to come.

Many refugee families have been separated, scattered between Sinjar, Syria and the Kurdistan region of Iraq; children have been torn from their parents -- killed, kidnapped or disappeared in the chaos. The majority of children are now with their grandparents, cousins or more distant relatives. Many refugees report they had to leave behind their elderly whom they could not carry, anxious to know if they were still alive. Others who made it safely to the camp gave reports of young girls and women forced to stay behind and being sold. Families say that their young men were killed.

The local communities in Syria have warmly welcomed the refugees, providing transport, cooking hot meals at home and delivering them to the camp, and donating clothes. UNHCR is coordinating the UN response to the Yazidi refugees in Syria which is rapidly scaling up. A joint UN mission was carried out on 12 August, bringing shelter and household items, ready to eat food, high energy biscuits, children's summer clothes and soap, provided by UNHCR, WFP and UNICEF.

For further information, please contact:

  • In Damascus, Imane Sednaoui on mobile +1 647 515 2770 / +963 988 004075
  • In Geneva, Adrian Edwards on mobile +41 79 557 9120
  • In Geneva, Ariane Rummery on mobile +41 79 200 7617
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Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

As world concern grows over the plight of hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrians, including more than 200,000 refugees, UNHCR staff are working around the clock to provide vital assistance in neighbouring countries. At the political level, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres was due on Thursday (August 30) to address a closed UN Security Council session on Syria.

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.

Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

Turkish Camps Provide Shelter to 90,000 Syrian Refugees

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.

Turkish Camps Provide Shelter to 90,000 Syrian Refugees

Displaced inside Syria: UNHCR and its Dedicated Staff help the Needy

The violence inside Syria continues to drive people from their homes, with some seeking shelter elsewhere in their country and others risking the crossing into neighbouring countries. The United Nations estimates that up to 4 million people are in need of help, including some 2 million believed to be internally displaced.

The UN refugee agency has 350 staff working inside Syria. Despite the insecurity, they continue to distribute vital assistance in the cities of Damascus, Aleppo, Al Hassakeh and Homs. Thanks to their work and dedication, more than 350,000 people have received non-food items such as blankets, kitchen sets and mattresses. These are essential items for people who often flee their homes with no more than the clothes on their backs. Cash assistance has been given to more than 10,600 vulnerable Syrian families.

Displaced inside Syria: UNHCR and its Dedicated Staff help the Needy

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