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UNHCR in Lebanon steps up registration of Syrian refugees

UNHCR in Lebanon steps up registration of Syrian refugees

Desperate people arrive at the centre in the north of Lebanon, which can register 700 people a day.
14 August 2012
Syrian refugees are processed in Lebanon
Syrian refugees are processed at a new UNHCR registration centre opened in the north of Lebanon because of the increasing numbers fleeing the fighting.

TRIPOLI, Lebanon, 14 August (UNHCR) - UNHCR said on Tuesday it had opened a new registration centre in the north of Lebanon as Syrians continue to flee to neighbouring countries to escape the fighting enveloping their country.

In Tripoli the UN refugee agency opened a facility at the Rachid Karame International Exhibition Centre on Monday that will allow processing of up to 700 people per day. While refugees receive some humanitarian assistance pending registration, registration is critical to receive medical care and to enroll in Lebanese public schools.

"My life is miserable, I lost my home, I have no idea where my husband is…I have nothing left except my ID," said Samar, a 19 year-old mother of two who was being registered at the new centre. She fled to Lebanon after her home in Hama was destroyed and her 20-year-old husband was detained.

The hall had been refurbished for use as a refugee registration centre in only four days, with it now configured in nine registration rooms and additional spaces for needs like counseling.

Many made the trip to Tripoli today hoping that registration will help them get needed assistance to survive in Lebanon.

Nour, from Tal Khalah, Syria, had arrived in Lebanon through the green border two weeks ago with her three children, Fatima, Omar and Asaad. Shelling of her home had killed her six-year -old daughter and she fled with only her identification documents.

In tears, she explained that her husband was still unable to get out of Syria. She is nine months pregnant and does not know how she will cover hospital costs of the birth.

Currently, northern Lebanon has around 20,000 registered refugees. Thousands more are waiting to be registered even as new people arrive.

UNHCR's figures do not reflect the entire refugee populations as thousands are not yet registered. The numbers in all surrounding countries continue to rise. As of 13 August the number of formally registered Syrian refugees and in the process of being registered in surrounding countries was 157,577: 45,998 in Jordan, 37,740 in Lebanon, 14,129 in Iraq, 59,710 in Turkey.

The Tripoli centre's opening follows an information campaign in Lebanon to encourage people to register. Many displaced Syrians have been reluctant to register.

UNHCR through its partners will cover the school fees of displaced Syrians and over the summer break, which ends next month, has been running remedial classes for children struggling with a different curriculum and language of instruction.

Before the summer break some 1,200 Syrian children were in schools in the north of Lebanon, and UNHCR estimates another 3,000 to 4,000 children will enter in September following registration.

Overall in Lebanon, including those in the north, 37,740 Syrians have registered, with another 1,700 receiving assistance while they await registration. Of the registered population, 57 percent are in the North, while just over 40 percent are in the Bekaa in the east of the country. Smaller numbers of refugees are in Beirut, Mount Lebanon, and the south of the country. Registration continues in the Bekaa valley and Beirut.

Meanwhile, the security situation for refugees in the northern border areas of Lebanon is deteriorating. Northern parts of the Wali Khalid area, where several hundred refugee families reside, are affected by shelling from the Syrian side of the border two to three times per week. Despite this situation, many families prefer to stay in the unsafe border areas where they have found refuge with host families than move to a collective shelter.

Elsewhere in the north of Lebanon, refugees with little money struggle to pay high rents. The generosity of host families is being stretched and conditions are crowded. UNHCR was told of one family in Tripoli who was hosting four families.

While most Syrians are staying with host families or renting apartments, an increasing number are seeking shelter in schools in the north and the east. In the Bekaa valley area, some 94 families are now staying in schools, including 80 in schools that are expected to reopen for the new term in September. In the North, 51 families are currently staying in operational schools. UNHCR is scaling up its efforts to find alternative shelter for these refugees.

While refugee numbers continue to rise, UNHCR is receiving reports that many more Syrians have had long delays crossing the border into Lebanon, with lengthy questioning and car searches.

Bathoul Ahmed in Tripoli, Lebanon