Increase in registered Syrian refugees, new camps planned in Turkey and Jordan

Briefing Notes, 17 July 2012

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 17 July 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The number of Syrian refugees registered or assisted by UNHCR in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey has almost tripled since April 2012 and now stands at 112,000. Three quarters are women and children. This actual number of Syrian refugees is thought to be significantly higher, as many people seek to be registered only when they run out of resources.

In all four countries, many newly arriving Syrian refugees are entirely dependent on humanitarian aid, with some coming with only the clothes on their backs, and following many months of unemployment. The needs of those who arrived earlier in the year are also increasing as their savings have become depleted. At the same time, the communities supporting the refugees are increasingly feeling the strain, with the local infrastructure and resources under severe pressure, in particular water, housing, capacity of schools and health facilities.

In Jordan, 33,421 Syrians are now registered with our office. Seventy-nine percent registered in the past 4 months. This exceeds the number of Iraqi refugees registered in Jordan (29,091).

UNHCR welcomes a decision of the Jordan Council of Ministers to establish camps to accommodate Syrian refugees. While UNHCR maintains that a camp situation in Jordan is the option of last resort, the number of refugees arriving in Jordan necessitates forward planning in the event that the capacity of the host community reaches saturation point or that the numbers of new arrivals rapidly increase further.

UNHCR and the Jordan Hashemite Charity Organization (JHCO) have begun establishing the camp at Za'atri, Mafraq Governorate in northern Jordan. A site for 3,000 people has been prepared, including water and sanitation facilities installed by UNICEF. The nine square kilometer site has a potential capacity for around 113,000 people.

The total number of registered Syrians in Lebanon has reached 28,103 refugees with a further 2,000 Syrians receiving assistance while waiting for registration. Security is an ongoing concern, with up to 800 Syrian refugees currently being hosted in villages in a precarious zone along the Lebanese-Syrian border.

In Iraq, the number of Syrian refugees of Kurdish origin registered with UNHCR and the Iraqi Department of Displacement and Migration in the Kurdistan region has almost tripled since April, with over 6,500 registered and over 1,400 awaiting registration. The camp in Domiz, close to Dohuk, is currently hosting about one third of the Syrian refugee population, with plans ongoing to relocate more refugees there.

According to the Government of Turkey, the camp population has doubled in the period from 24 May to 16 July 2012 and currently stands at around 40,000. The government has announced that two to three new sites may be established, in addition to upgrading existing sites. This will increase the country's hosting capacity by an additional 30,000 refugees.

UNHCR is grateful that Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and Turkey have maintained open borders and that refugees are being welcomed. Two weeks after the launch of the Regional Response Plan for Syrian Refugees, which encompasses the needs of 7 UN Agencies and 36 NGO partners to support Syrian refugees, the plan (amounting to US$193 million) is only 26 per cent funded. UNHCR and partners warn that this low level of funding is having a profound impact on the humanitarian support being offered in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and Turkey.

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