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2,000 Iraqis per day continuing to arrive at Syrian border

Briefing notes

2,000 Iraqis per day continuing to arrive at Syrian border

21 September 2007

Our staff in Syria are reporting that arrivals of Iraqis at the border are averaging about 2,000 a day. Earlier this month, Syria announced visa restrictions for Iraqis wishing to enter Syria, but temporarily lifted them with the start of Ramadan. It is encouraging to note that Iraqis fleeing violence and insecurity are still allowed entry in Syria which is now hosting nearly 1.5 million Iraqi refugees, a very heavy burden on a country that has shown immense hospitality over the past years.

The number of people registering at our registration site in Douma, outside Damascus, has also noticeably increased over the last week. On average, we have some 2,500 people registering a week, but last week this number increased to some 7,500 people. This could well mean that people are starting to see the importance of registration, in particular in light of the recent food distributions and provision of warm meals during the Ramadan period. UNHCR finished the first distribution of two months of food rations to 35,000 people yesterday. The daily distribution of warm meals will be ongoing during Ramadan, hoping to reach 270,000 Iraqis. UNHCR has registered over 120,000 Iraqis in Syria - with one out of four of them being in need of special assistance such as trauma counselling or medial care - and nearly 200,000 in the region. We estimate that over 2.2 million refugees have fled Iraq.

By the end of August, UNHCR had referred the cases of 13,696 Iraqi refugees to resettlement countries for consideration - 10,111 to the United States and 3,586 others to Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Brazil. So far, less than one thousand people have left for life in a third country, but we hope this number will pick up in the months to come. We continue to urge the resettlement countries to make rapid decisions and facilitate the departure of those most in need, many of whom are urgent medical cases, female-headed households, torture victims and others. Resettlement, however, remains an option for only a few of the most vulnerable Iraqis. Our goal is to provide up to 20,000 Iraqi resettlement cases to governments this year.