Number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon passes 100,000 mark

News Stories, 23 October 2012

© UNHCR/M.Abu Asaker
Syrian children outside their UNHCR tent in Jordan's Za'atri refugee camp.

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.

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2008 Nansen Refugee Award

The UN refugee agency has named the British coordinator of a UN-run mine clearance programme in southern Lebanon and his civilian staff, including almost 1,000 Lebanese mine clearers, as the winners of the 2008 Nansen Refugee Award.

Christopher Clark, a former officer with the British armed forces, became manager of the UN Mine Action Coordination Centre-South Lebanon (UNMACC-SL) n 2003. His teams have detected and destroyed tons of unexploded ordnance (UXO) and tens of thousands of mines. This includes almost 145,000 submunitions (bomblets from cluster-bombs) found in southern Lebanon since the five-week war of mid-2006.

Their work helped enable the return home of almost 1 million Lebanese uprooted by the conflict. But there has been a cost – 13 mine clearers have been killed, while a further 38 have suffered cluster-bomb injuries since 2006. Southern Lebanon is once more thriving with life and industry, while the process of reconstruction continues apace thanks, in large part, to the work of the 2008 Nansen Award winners.

2008 Nansen Refugee Award

Beyond the Border

In 2010, the Turkish border with Greece became the main entry point for people attempting by irregular methods to reach member states of the European Union, with over 132,000 arrivals. While some entered as migrants with the simple wish of finding a better life, a significant number fled violence or persecution in countries such as Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq and Somalia. The journey is perilous, with many reports of drowning when people board flimsy vessels and try to cross the Mediterranean Sea or the River Evros on the border between Greece and Turkey. The many deficiencies in the Greek asylum system are exacerbated by the pressure of tens of thousands of people awaiting asylum hearings. Reception facilities for new arrivals, including asylum-seekers, are woefully inadequate. Last year, UNHCR visited a number of overcrowded facilities where children, men and women were detained in cramped rooms with insufficient facilities. UNHCR is working with the Greek government to improve its asylum system and has called upon other European states to offer support.

Beyond the Border

Lebanese Returnees Receive Aid

UNHCR started distributing emergency relief aid in devastated southern Lebanese villages in the second half of August. Items such as tents, plastic sheeting and blankets are being distributed to the most vulnerable. UNHCR supplies are being taken from stockpiles in Beirut, Sidon and Tyre and continue to arrive in Lebanon by air, sea and road.

Although 90 percent of the displaced returned within days of the August 14 ceasefire, many Lebanese have been unable to move back into their homes and have been staying with family or in shelters, while a few thousand have remained in Syria.

Since the crisis began in mid-July, UNHCR has moved 1,553 tons of supplies into Syria and Lebanon for the victims of the fighting. That has included nearly 15,000 tents, 154,510 blankets, 53,633 mattresses and 13,474 kitchen sets. The refugee agency has imported five trucks and 15 more are en route.

Posted on 29 August 2006

Lebanese Returnees Receive Aid

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