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Syrian refugee numbers up sharply in August, with more than 100,000 fleeing to neighbouring countries

Briefing notes

Syrian refugee numbers up sharply in August, with more than 100,000 fleeing to neighbouring countries

4 September 2012

The number of refugees fleeing Syria rose sharply in August, with more than 100,000 people seeking asylum in surrounding countries - the highest monthly total of the Syria crisis to date.

Iraqi refugees in Syria continue to return to Iraq by the hundreds. Most tell us they are leaving because of general insecurity, although some have reported direct threats. During the weekend a taxi used by Iraqi families to return to Iraq was hijacked. According to UNHCR outreach workers three Iraqi refugees were killed last week in the Damascus suburb of Jaramana, increasing fear among the refugee population there. According to the Iraqi Government 35,000 people returned to Iraq in July and August.

UNHCR and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent continue to expand operations to support displaced Syrians. UNHCR has launched a programme of financial assistance for displaced families in Al Nabek, a town located between Damascus and Homs where large numbers of displaced people have sought safety. Yesterday 300 vulnerable families received cheques which they will cash at local banks. Based on experience of supporting Iraqi refugees, and feedback from displaced families, financial assistance is proving to be the most effective way of supporting vulnerable families in the constrained security environment in much of Syria. UNHCR and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent hope to expand this programme to 35,000 families (around 200,000 people) in the coming months. To date 730 displaced families have benefitted, in addition to the 8,500 Iraqi refugee families (around 35,000 individuals) currently receiving financial assistance from UNHCR.


Iraq has seen a significant increase in the number of Syrian Kurds arriving in the past week with an estimated 500 Syrians crossing a day, compared to 500 a week in the first three weeks of August. In the Kurdistan region the authorities have agreed to work with UNHCR on a programme for urban refugees. They have also agreed to the establishment of a second camp, which will mainly accommodate Syrian Kurds. Elsewhere in Iraq there are reports of smaller numbers of Syrians arriving, including in Baghdad and Najaf.

In response to the large numbers of Iraqis electing to return to Iraq, the Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration is expediting the registration process for returnees. This should enable returnees to receive government assistance for their reintegration in the coming weeks and months. During July and August some 2000 families were registered, of whom at least half were formerly registered with UNHCR Syria. UNHCR is assisting returnees with household items and will soon start a small cash assistance programme for the most vulnerable returnee families.


Refugees continue to cross into Jordan at a rate of about 1,000 a day. There are reports of an increasing numbers of displaced people in southern Syria. The Jordanian government, UNHCR and partners are making preparations in the event of a large influx. In the last few days, the first batch of 56 trucks carrying 13,000 tents and relief items (like blankets, jerry cans and kitchen sets) for a total 150,000 people arrived from our stockpile in Dubai to reinforce our local supplies in Jordan.


In Lebanon this week UNHCR is opening a mobile registration centre in Baalbeck in the eastern Bekaa in response to the increasing number of displaced Syrians who are settling in the area. The new arrivals come from mainly Damascus, Dara'a and Aleppo, and are staying in Baalbeck, Aarsal and Qab Elias areas of the Bekaa valley. We hope to register some 5,000 people (948 families) this month in the Baalbeck centre area.

There are now more than 59,000 displaced Syrians who are registered or are awaiting registration with UNHCR in Lebanon. Of the registered population, 55 per cent are in the north of Lebanon, 42 per cent are in the Bekaa valley while smaller numbers are in Mount Lebanon, Beirut and the South.

Host families are increasingly stretched in their capacity to host refugees and UNHCR is appealing to authorities in Lebanon to approve alternative shelter options. In addition some 180 families are staying in six schools due to open this month. Many are coming under pressure to move out. Yesterday a number of families were evicted from al-Marj school. The Office is in contact with the local authorities as well as with the Ministry of Social Affairs to permit the families to return to the school while expediting their relocation to an earlier identified shelter. While the decision to delay the start of the school term for one week has given some respite, some schools are exerting pressure on families to vacate now so they can begin preparations for the new term.

UNHCR and its partners have been working hard to increase the enrolment of Syrian children in Lebanese schools - meeting with school directors and reaching out to refugee communities. UNHCR and its partners will cover the costs of school fees and other expenses. Over the summer break, we've been running catch up classes for Syrian children not used to the Lebanese curriculum taught in English or French. Some forty percent of the registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon are between 5 and 17 years old, and are entitled to attend Lebanese schools.


According to the authorities there are currently 80,410 Syrian refugees in Turkey. Some refugees have returned to Syria reportedly due to ongoing shifts in conflict areas as well as due to concerns for their property amid rumours of looting. Many indicate that they may have to return to Turkey depending on the security situation.

Meanwhile there is still a backlog of Syrians waiting to be processed at the border with reportedly around 8000 waiting to cross. They are being given food, water, and medical assistance at the border and will be admitted to Turkey gradually. The Government of Turkey continues to assure UNHCR that the borders remain open to refugees. About 480 refugees were admitted from the border on Sunday.

The government continues to transfer Syrian refugees staying in schools in several provinces to the new camp in Karkamis with over 4,000 already transferred in recent days. Meanwhile a new camp in Kahramanmaras opened yesterday and will host refugees staying in boarding schools in southern Turkey and newly arrived refugees.


The number of Syrian refugees registered or awaiting registration as of September 2nd is 235,368 (including 103,416 people who have registered since August 2nd).


Total registered = 77,165 {including 30,044 awaiting registration}


Total registered = 59,111 {including 15,251 awaiting registration} (As of August, 31)


Total registered = 18,682 {including 1,841 awaiting registration}


Total registered = 80,410 {registered and assisted as per Government statistics / August, 29}

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Amman: Ariane Rummery on mobile + 962 796552045
  • In Geneva: Adrian Edwards on mobile +41 79 557 9120
  • Melissa Fleming on number +41 22 739 7965
  • Sybella Wilkes on mobile +41 79 557 91 38
  • In Paris: William Spinder on mobile +33 6 23 16 11 78