As Syrian refugee numbers top quarter of a million, UN Refugee Chief António Guterres and Special Envoy, Angelina Jolie, visit Jordan's Za'atari refugee camp

Briefing Notes, 11 September 2012

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 11 September 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres and UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie are in Jordan today where they are visiting the Za'atari refugee camp for Syrian refugees. As well as showing solidarity with the refugees the visit is about recognizing the commitment of the Jordanian people and government to refugee protection. Latest figures show that more than a quarter of a million Syrian refugees (253,106 people) have now been registered in the surrounding region, or are awaiting registration.

Last night Ms. Jolie, who arrived in Jordan ahead of High Commissioner Guterres, visited the border with Syria where she met newly arriving families. Among them was an injured man. Most of the refugees cross the border at night. Ms. Jolie was accompanied on the visit by members of the Jordanian military, who have been providing protection and assistance to the refugees

Since its opening on July 29 2012 Za'atari camp, which is located close to Mafraq near the Syria border, has received 28,000 refugees. These are among the 85,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan who have registered or are awaiting registration (the actual number of refugees in Jordan is thought to be much higher). Most are living with host communities in urban areas.

Refugees tell us that artillery and air attacks are continuing in villages and towns close to the Jordanian border. There are reports of thousands of displaced people in Syria's south, moving from village to village seeking safety before they can cross the border.

The numbers of refugees crossing the border tends to fluctuate daily according to the security situation inside Syria. Overall, the average remains around two thousand new arrivals a day, but some days have seen less than 1000 people crossing.

Refugees say a number of sites in Damascus where displaced people have been sheltering are now affected by violence, forcing them to move again. Some refugees report being displaced five or six times before finally leaving the country.

UNHCR, together with the Jordanian Government, the Jordan Hashemite Charity Organization, and UN and NGO partners is working day and night to support Syrian refugees. Nevertheless, conditions at Za'atari a windswept camp in the desert are still harsh, and most refugees are living in tents. With winter approaching, we hope to be able to move people into prefabricated housing, which is arriving at a rate of up to 30 homes a day, giving priority to the most vulnerable families.

In the meantime, refugees are doing their best to establish their lives in the camp. Over the weekend, the first wedding took place. Several babies have been born at Za'atari since the camp opened.

Following the visit to the camps, High Commissioner Guterres and Special Envoy Jolie will meet His Majesty King Abdullah II Ibn Al-Hussein, Prime Minister Fayez Tarawneh and Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Judeh. Updates about the continuing visit will be posted at www.unhcr.org as information becomes available for release.

Statistics

The number of Syrian refugees in the region who have been registered or are awaiting registration was 253,106 as of 10 September 2012.

- Jordan 85,197 {including 35,961 awaiting registration}

- Lebanon 66,915 {including 19,585 awaiting registration}

- Iraq 22,563 {including 1,767 awaiting registration} (As of September 09)

- Turkey 78,431 {all registered and assisted as per government statistics}.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Amman: Melissa Fleming on mobile +41 79 557 9122
  • In Geneva: Adrian Edwards on mobile +41 79 557 9120
  • Sybella Wilkes on mobile +41 79 557 91 38
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The High Commissioner

António Guterres, who joined UNHCR on June 15, 2005, is the UN refugee agency's 10th High Commissioner.

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