Number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon passes 100,000 mark
GENEVA, October 23 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency said Tuesday that Lebanon has become the third country in the region to see its population of registered Syrian refugees and people waiting for registration exceeding the 100,000 mark.
"As of yesterday, the number of refugees was 101,283," UNHCR's chief spokesperson, Melissa Fleming, told journalists in Geneva. "Turkey and Jordan already have refugee populations in excess of this figure, and region-wide the number has climbed to more than 358,000. Governments in states bordering Syria estimate there are tens of thousands more Syrians who have not yet registered," she added.
The recent unrest in Lebanon has temporarily disrupted UNHCR operations, including registration of refugees in Tripoli, Akar, Beirut and Saida in southern Lebanon. Registration was to have begun on Monday in Saida, where some 800 Syrians already have appointments. "We are assessing the security situation and hope to resume all operations as soon as conditions allow," Fleming said.
More than 5,500 Syrian refugees were registered last week at UNHCR centres. It is expected that more will continue to seek help the longer they stay in exile and as their own resources diminish. Most Syrian refugees in Lebanon are in the north and the Bekaa Valley, and nearly 70 per cent are from the city of Homs.
Many of the refugees in Lebanon are struggling to make ends meet on the open economy and complain of high prices. Helping to ease the strain, the government announced last week that it will waive a fee for Syrians wishing to renew residency permits. Over the past week, some 16,000 refugees received food, blankets, mattresses, hygiene kits and baby kits from sources including UNHCR, the World Food Programme, the Danish Refugee Council, World Vision, the UN Population Fund, UNICEF and Caritas.
In Turkey, the registered refugee population in 14 government-run camps spread across seven provinces stood at 101,834 as of October 17. In addition to the camp population, an estimated 70,000 people reside outside the camps. In Jordan, 105,737 Syrians have registered as refugees or are awaiting registration. In Iraq, there are now 42,661 Syrian refugees, including 34,446 in the northern Kurdistan Region.
As of Saturday, UNHCR had also recorded 6,815 registered refugees in North Africa, most of them in Egypt. Egyptian officials, however, said last week that there were as many as 150,000 Syrians in the country, although very few have registered.
"UNHCR continues to stress the urgent need for international support to refugee programmes in these countries - nations that should not be expected to carry the entire burden themselves," Fleming said in Geneva. "Nearly four weeks after the launch of the US$487.9 million revised Syria Regional Response Plan, we remain only about a third funded. And we are racing against time to ensure that all of these hundreds of thousands of refugees are protected from the winter cold."
In Turkey, winter preparations include the provision of additional aid items. UNHCR is working with the Turkish Red Crescent Society to ensure that people have blankets, tarpaulins and electric heaters. The agency is also planning support for asylum-seekers and refugees in urban locations.
Turkey says its borders remain open for Syrians seeking asylum. The authorities report, however, that there are more than 10,000 Syrians gathered on the Syrian side of the border opposite both Kilis and Hatay provinces. It is not clear whether all are willing to cross into Turkey. The Turkish Red Crescent is providing assistance to people on the border.
In Syria itself, UNHCR yesterday reached the half-way mark in its goal of distributing non-food aid packages to 100,000 Syrian families (500,000 people) by the end of this year. And last week, UNHCR Syria began rolling out a cash assistance programme for the displaced in Hassakeh governorate, providing money to 5,230 families (26,000 people).
With this one-time cash assistance, affected Syrian families will be able to meet some of the needs that are not covered by UNHCR's non-food aid packages. Hassakeh is the second location where Syrians have been able to benefit from the cash assistance programme, which was piloted in Al Nabek, south of Homs.
Meanwhile, Fleming said that in anticipation of a possible truce during Eid, UNHCR has pre-positioned 5,000 emergency relief family kits in Aleppo, with another 5,000 on the way. "If the truce happens, these materials could be delivered to 10,000 displaced families by implementing partners in places that we have previously been unable to reach around Aleppo and Idlib," she explained.
In addition, UNHCR is dispatching 1,000 recreational items that Syria Trust for Development, a local NGO, will distribute this week to children living in communal shelters in Damascus and Aleppo.