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UNHCR Survey finds Afghan and Syrian refugees arriving to Greece are fleeing conflict and violence

Briefing notes

UNHCR Survey finds Afghan and Syrian refugees arriving to Greece are fleeing conflict and violence

23 February 2016

A UNHCR survey found that some 94% of Syrians arriving in Greece in January made the perilous journey by sea to escape conflict and violence in Syria. Similarly, 71% of the Afghans surveyed cited conflict and violence as the main reason they left their country.

UNHCR is releasing the findings of its surveys of Afghan and Syrian refugees who have arrived in Greece during January 2016. These findings are part of an ongoing study to learn more about who these refugees are, where they come from, why they are fleeing and what their particular protection needs are, so that Greek authorities, UNHCR and other partners can best support them, especially those with specific needs, such as women-headed households and unaccompanied or separated children.

UNHCR conducted this survey from 15-31 January this year, interviewing a random sampling of over 400 Syrian and Afghan refugees and asylum-seekers who arrived on the Greek islands of Chios, Leros, Lesvos and Samos that month. This exercise will be repeated over the next six months, thus providing the largest and most comprehensive data sets available on the refugee emergency in Europe.

Some of the other key findings include:

  • 85% of Syrians interviewed were internally displaced before their journey to Greece; and 87% were traveling with family members.
  • 65% of the Afghans and 47% who stayed in another country for more than 6 months reported having no legal documentation.

The lack of access to jobs that fit their skills, meet living expenses and avoid exploitation is the number 1 reason (41%) for Syrians to leave their last country of residence. The second reason (16%) is discrimination.

  • Women-headed households made up 20% of the Syrian families who were interviewed.
  • 79% of the Syrians and 44% of the Afghans polled had a secondary, high school or university degree.
  • Women and children accounted for 51% of the Syrians and 40% of the Afghans interviewed.
  • The majority (41%) of Syrians state family reunification as reason of the choice of destination country. Together with the fact that 20% are women headed households traveling, it reinforces the desperate need for robust family reunification procedures

UNHCR will collect, analyse and share this data regularly to better inform the wider community on the profile of refugees arriving in Greece. We will add surveys of Iraqi refugees to those of Afghan and Syrian nationals in the coming months. Both immediate response and longer term planning can be greatly improved with better data and analysis.

Survey factsheets:

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Geneva, Karin de Gruijl on mobile +41 79 255 9213
  • In Geneva, Joung-ah Ghedini-Williams on mobile +41 79 881 91 89