Record numbers of Syrian refugees flee as UN warns of critically low funding

News Stories, 9 November 2012

© UNHCR/S.Malkawi
Syrian refugees head to safety in a neighbouring country.

GENEVA, November 9 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency said on Friday that the number of Syrian refugees crossing into Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan on Thursday and Friday had set a record for a 24-hour period.

The vast majority, reportedly 9,000 Syrians, crossed into Turkey's Urfa province during the night. The remaining 2,000 Syrians were registered and assisted by UNHCR in Jordan and Lebanon.

In Turkey, most of the refugees were taken to government-run camps in Ceylanpinar and Akcakale, while some are being cared for by relatives. Some of those who crossed into Turkey overnight reportedly re-entered Syria when the sound of artillery subsided.

A total of 71 of the new refugees arrived wounded and were given medical treatment. Two later died. With the latest influx, the total number of Syrians in 14 government-run camps in Turkey is now approaching 122,000.

This latest news coincided with the sixth Syria Humanitarian Forum in Geneva, which gathered of UN agencies, non-governmental organizations and donor countries.

Panos Moumtzis, UNHCR's regional coordinator for Syrian refugees, told the participants that funding for the operations to support Syrian refugees was at a critical level, with just 35 per cent of the requested US$487.9 million received to date. He warned the donors that "winter won't wait" and outlined the ambitious plans of UNHCR and 52 partner UN agencies and NGOs to prepare Syrian refugees for the winter.

The latest arrivals bring the number of Syrian refugees in the region to 408,000, but Moumtzis warned that far more are in the region.

The meeting also heard from UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria Radhouane Nouicer, who described the challenges faced by the UN and NGO community in trying to deliver aid in a country beset by violence and insecurity.

"Ordinary people are under siege, trapped, and aid agencies are often unable to reach them," he told donors, noting that "the Syrian people are probably the most effective aid organization, opening their homes to the displaced." Nouicer noted that of the 2.5 million Syrians estimated to be in need of assistance, at least 1.2 million are displaced.

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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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