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UN Refugee Agency ready to assist Lebanese refugees in Syria

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UN Refugee Agency ready to assist Lebanese refugees in Syria

10 August 2006

Damascus, Thursday, 10 August 2006

During her first official visit to Syria, Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees, Ms Judy Cheng-Hopkins, a Malaysian national, acknowledged the remarkable hospitality Syrians are granting Lebanese refugees and stated that the UN Refugee Agency on its part is willing and ready to assist the needed.

She held talks with various senior Syrian Government officials and agreed with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent that UNHCR would cooperate closely with all involved institutions in providing assistance to shelter sites and host families.

UNHCR Syria is working in a joint effort with other UN agencies to ease the suffering of Lebanese refugees. It is ready to provide tents, mattresses, blankets, sheets, kitchen sets and other urgently needed relief items for 50,000 refugees. Over the last week aid for 10,000 beneficiaries has been distributed already in Damascus and surrounding areas and in Homs. Furthermore the UNHCR is sending convoys with emergency aid supplies to Beirut on a regular basis.

On Wednesday Ms. Cheng-Hopkins visited Homs, where UNHCR has been requested by the Government to establish a tented refugee camp on a pilot basis. Though there are no definite plans yet to move refugees to tented camps, emergency shelters should be prepared should a major influx occur. In Homs she met refugees whose relatives had been killed and was moved by the trauma they went through.

"Regarding the humanitarian assistance, the UN is ready to play an active role in this crisis", Ms. Cheng-Hopkins said. "As UNHCR we have the capacity and the expertise to care for refugees so there is no reason for us not to deliver."

The Assistant High Commissioner pointed out that if the crisis endures, the Syrian population might need help in dealing with tens of thousands of refugees: "Together with other UN agencies in Syria, we are willing and ready to jointly fill the gaps that may arise and we all are on standby to help."

Over the last week UNHCR has opened three new offices in Homs, Aleppo and Tartus. The agency is doing border monitoring and reaching out to communities to asses their immediate needs.