Hundreds of Syrians uprooted every day as conflict continues

Briefing Notes, 3 August 2012

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 3 August 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

With no let up in the violence in Syria, more and more people are being forced to abandon their homes to seek safety. Those most difficult to aid as many as 1.5 million remain in Syria, uprooted and taking refuge in host families or makeshift shelters. Many others are trapped, fearing the risk of being caught up in fighting or targeted during escape.

Inside Syria, through the critical help of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), UNHCR continues to deliver basic materials to enable families to set up makeshift homes. But access to people in need remains the most significant problem. With insecurity rising dramatically in Aleppo, terror is gripping the population and humanitarian aid is desperately needed. According to SARC, 45 schools and six of the city's dormitories are hosting a total of 7,200 persons. An unknown number of people are staying in mosques. Many are moving from village to village to escape violence. It was impossible yesterday to send additional relief items as the city was sealed off by military forces. Our staff in Aleppo also reported a complete failure of mobile coverage and internet connectivity.

In Damascus, explosions were witnessed in several neighbourhoods and violence is spreading. UNRWA has confirmed that 20 persons are dead and ten more are wounded in Yarmouk, where there is a large concentration of Palestinian refugees. Also in Damascus, one Sudanese refugee was shot in his legs by armed groups and an Iraqi refugee reported to us that as a result of the shelling in the Sayyda Zainab neighbourhood, his son was severely injured by shooting and passed away in the hospital. On a recent single day, about 700 refugees approached UNHCR Damascus seeking advice and assistance.

UNHCR continues to provide limited financial and other assistance to large numbers of the most needy refugees in Damascus and Al Hasakeh. The majority of the refugees approaching the UNHCR office report fear, physical harm, the need to relocate due to lack of safety, robbery and direct threats. Many are hiding in schools, which are not equipped to host a large numbers of refugees and lack sufficient hygiene facilities.

Hundreds of people continue to resort to crossing international borders where they find safety, security and aid. In Turkey, the numbers crossing range from 400- 600 per day, most from Aleppo and the surrounding villages. A total of over 44,000 Syrians are hosted and assisted in eight camps in the border provinces of Hatay (10.808), Gaziantep (7,502), Kilis (12,032) and Ceylanpinar (13.337). Close to 50% of the population are below 18 years. UNHCR is supporting the Government of Turkey with the provision of core items for emergency shelter and is present in all four provinces to provide technical advice as needed.

In Jordan, the increase in numbers crossing in recent weeks to Ramtha has led to a record breaking 9,500 new people registered in July alone. With 397 people arriving yesterday, the total registered population has now reached 37,448 individuals with another 2751 pending registration. Those aged between 18 and 35 represent the highest percentage at 30.4% of the total population, followed by ages 5-11 at 19.9% and ages 0-4 at 18.5%. 81.1% of those registered come from the cities of Homs and Dara. The newly opened Za'atri refugee camp is now systematically receiving new arrivals as it works with partners to install facilities to meet basic needs of a growing population. Beyond those registered, the Jordanian government estimates that some 150,000 Syrian refugees have entered the Kingdom since March last year.

In Lebanon, 33,664 individuals are registered and assisted and 1,700 assisted await registration. This population is concentrated in North Lebanon and Bekaa valley, living in communities that are among the poorest and most under serviced regions in the country. The majority are women and children who have a myriad of needs and are reliant on support provided within the communities and by the UN and international and national partners. A steady stream of Syrians from Homs, Damascus, Dara'a and Aleppo continue to take refuge in Lebanon. Most of the recently arrived have not come forward to register with UNHCR. They have proceeded to the capital Beirut, or main Lebanese cities like Saida and Tripoli to reside with and family or friends or are renting apartments. UNHCR is refining its contingency planning with partners and the government to be prepared in the event of a larger influx.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, a total of 354 Iraqis returned from Syria on 1 August, all through the three border points of Al-Waleed, Rabi'aa and Al-Qa'im, according to the latest statistics received from the border authorities. In total, Iraqi returnee numbers have reached 20,707, including 5,222 by air.

Al-Waleed border point saw the first Syrian refugees with the arrival of two families comprising five individuals. The first family fled Aleppo fighting and the second was reportedly threatened by an armed gang in Yalda district of Damascus. Both families have now settled in the Al-Waleed refugee camp.

The total number of Syrian refugees across Iraq has reached 12,409.

UNHCR is heavily engaged in the final preparation of a second refugee camp in Al-Qa'im, overseeing the construction works and services undertaken by the local authorities and partners. One hundred tents have been installed at the location so far and teams are registering the Syrian families at their present locations in schools and public centres for preparation to be moved to the camp. Officials are expecting a refugee influx triggered by the worsening violence across Syrian towns and cities.

Latest Statistics:

Jordan

Total = 40,199

- registered and assisted: 37,488

- assisted awaiting registration: 2,751 Bulbul, Semih

Lebanon

Total = 35,364

- registered and assisted: 33,664

- assisted awaiting registration: 1,700

** On average, 528 people are entering Lebanon/hour, and 240 people returning to Syria/hour.

Iraq

Total = 12,409

- registered and assisted: 9,053

- assisted awaiting registration: 3,356

** The total number of Iraqi returnees from Syria has reached up to 20,707 since July 18. This includes 5,222 returnees by air, mostly on government-assisted flights.

Turkey

Total = 44,038

** with the arrival of 525 persons, and return of 532 persons on 30-31 July.

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