August sees big increase in Syrians arriving in southern Europe

Briefing Notes, 13 September 2013

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 13 September 2013, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is seeing a sharp increase in Syrians arriving by boat in southern Italy. Over the past 40 days 3,300 Syrians, of whom more than 230 were unaccompanied children, have come ashore mainly in Sicily. Some 670 of these arrivals were during the past week.

More than 30 boat arrivals have been involved. The majority have come from Egypt, although some started their journeys from Turkey. Most of the arrivals have been families with children. Several people have needed hospital treatment for dehydration, and there have been instances of people having to be airlifted directly from the boat they were traveling on.

Last week a nurse, from Damascus, died as she crossed with her husband and children. Her husband gave permission for her liver and kidneys to be used for three patients in Italy seeking organ transplants.

UNHCR estimates that over 4,600 Syrians have arrived in Italy by sea since the beginning of 2013. A full two thirds of these arrivals have been in August.

Syrians our staff spoke said they came mainly from Damascus, with many being Palestinian refugees born in Syria. On arrival, people are taken to reception centres. In recent months many Syrians have moved on from countries at the European Union's external borders to other parts of Europe.

According to our figures as of 6 September 21,870 people have arrived in southern Italy so far in 2013. This is a significant increase on levels in 2012 when 7,981 people arrived. The main nationalities have been Eritreans 5,778 (594 in 2012), Somalis 2,571 (1,280 in 2012) and now Syrians 3,970 (369 in 2012).

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