Syria Crisis: UNHCR welcomes planned humanitarian operations centre in Jordan

News Stories, 17 December 2012

© UNHCR/S.Malkawi
Syrian refugees wait to register in Jordan after crossing the order.

AMMAN, Jordan, December 17 (UNHCR) Warning of difficult months ahead, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres has announced the creation of a joint Jordanian-United Nations operations centre further strengthen coordination of the humanitarian response to a growing crisis that could see more than 1 million Syrian refugees in surrounding countries by mid-2013. Jordan alone estimates it already has 250,000 Syrians who have fled during the 20-month conflict.

Speaking to reporters at the conclusion of a two-day joint mission to Lebanon and Jordan with European Union Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva, Guterres described the establishment of the operations centre as "a quantum leap in our common coordination." The plan was agreed Sunday in a meeting called by the Jordanian Foreign Ministry and attended by several UN agencies, partners and donors.

Headed by a Jordanian government official, with UNHCR's Jordan representative as deputy head, the new centre will enable coordinated planning and logistics, improved information exchange and better analysis of overall financial requirements to meet the needs of Syrian refugees in Jordan.

It will enhance contingency planning between the government and several UN agencies and partners, including UNHCR, the World Food Programme (WFP), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), and ensure that aid stockpiles to meet the projected needs are prepared and pre-positioned.

Guterres also noted that UNHCR and its partners will unveil a new regional response plan for the Syrian refugee situation on Wednesday in Geneva. The plan will cover the programmes of 52 humanitarian agencies and NGOs involved in the Syrian refugee response in surrounding countries through the first six months of 2013. A similar plan for humanitarian needs inside Syria will also be announced at the meeting.

The current Regional Response Plan for the Syria refugee situation, launched in late September, called for US$488 million to cover the needs of some 710,000 refugees through the end of this year in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey. To date, it is only a little over half funded.

While Guterres did not give a figure for Wednesday's new appeal, he said it would be "substantially higher" and that the planning figures for Syrian refugees in the surrounding region now ranged from 1.1 million to 1.8 million the worst case scenario by June 2013.

"We are living in a crucial moment in relation to the conflict in Syria," Guterres said. "I think it is time for the international community to understand that this is not a conflict like any other. We are witnessing brutal fighting with tragic humanitarian consequences."

He added that the conflict was "evolving in a way that makes us foresee the possibility that 2013 will be very much more dramatic than 2012. So the support to the trapped Syrians inside the country by the conflict, to the Syrians who are now refugees in Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon, and to the host countries in the region, needs to be very strongly enhanced in 2013."

Noting its long history of receiving first Palestinian refugees, then Iraqis and now Syrians despite enormous economic, social, and security concerns the High Commissioner praised Jordan's generosity "in a world where so many borders remain closed." He added that Jordan should be an example to the rest of the international community.

Guterres reiterated his call for more international support for humanitarian programmes both within Syria itself and in the surrounding host countries so that borders will remain open to those fleeing the violence in Syria.

There has been a spike in refugee arrivals in Jordan over the past few days, including more than 2,000 overnight Saturday-Sunday and Sunday-Monday the highest rate since September. Jordan has some 148,000 registered refugees. The government estimates there are another 100,000 who have not registered.

Region-wide, there are now some 520,000 Syrians either registered or awaiting registration as refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and North Africa. At least 200,000 more have not come forward to register, but many are expected to seek such help as winter sets in and their resources are depleted.

In addition to Sunday's Foreign Ministry meeting on establishing the joint operations centre, Guterres and Commissioner Georgieva held meetings in Amman with Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour, Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh and Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Jafaar Hassan.




UNHCR country pages

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie meets Iraqi refugees in Syria

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie returned to the Syrian capital Damascus on 2 October, 2009 to meet Iraqi refugees two years after her last visit. The award-winning American actress, accompanied by her partner Brad Pitt, took the opportunity to urge the international community not to forget the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees who remain in exile despite a relative improvement in the security situation in their homeland. Jolie said most Iraqi refugees cannot return to Iraq in view of the severe trauma they experienced there, the uncertainty linked to the coming Iraqi elections, the security issues and the lack of basic services. They will need continued support from the international community, she said. The Goodwill Ambassador visited the homes of two vulnerable Iraqi families in the Jaramana district of southern Damascus. She was particularly moved during a meeting with a woman from a religious minority who told Jolie how she was physically abused and her son tortured after being abducted earlier this year in Iraq and held for days. They decided to flee to Syria, which has been a generous host to refugees.

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie meets Iraqi refugees in Syria

Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

As world concern grows over the plight of hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrians, including more than 200,000 refugees, UNHCR staff are working around the clock to provide vital assistance in neighbouring countries. At the political level, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres was due on Thursday (August 30) to address a closed UN Security Council session on Syria.

Large numbers have crossed into Lebanon to escape the violence in Syria. By the end of August, more than 53,000 Syrians across Lebanon had registered or received appointments to be registered. UNHCR's operations for Syrian refugees in Tripoli and the Bekaa Valley resumed on August 28 after being briefly suspended due to insecurity.

Many of the refugees are staying with host families in some of the poorest areas of Lebanon or in public buildings, including schools. This is a concern as the school year starts soon. UNHCR is urgently looking for alternative shelter. The majority of the people looking for safety in Lebanon are from Homs, Aleppo and Daraa and more than half are aged under 18. As the conflict in Syria continues, the situation of the displaced Syrians in Lebanon remains precarious.

Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

Turkish Camps Provide Shelter to 90,000 Syrian Refugees

By mid-September, more than 200,000 Syrian refugees had crossed the border into Turkey. UNHCR estimates that half of them are children, and many have seen their homes destroyed in the conflict before fleeing to the border and safety.

The Turkish authorities have responded by building well-organized refugee camps along southern Turkey's border with Syria. These have assisted 120,000 refugees since the crisis conflict erupted in Syria. There are currently 12 camps hosting 90,000 refugees, while four more are under construction. The government has spent approximately US$300 million to date, and it continues to manage the camps and provide food and medical services.

The UN refugee agency has provided the Turkish government with tents, blankets and kitchen sets for distribution to the refugees. UNHCR also provides advice and guidelines, while staff from the organization monitor voluntary repatriation of refugees.

Most of the refugees crossing into Turkey come from areas of northern Syria, including the city of Aleppo. Some initially stayed in schools or other public buildings, but they have since been moved into the camps, where families live in tents or container homes and all basic services are available.

Turkish Camps Provide Shelter to 90,000 Syrian Refugees

Switzerland: UNHCR Finding Pathways for Syrian RefugeesPlay video

Switzerland: UNHCR Finding Pathways for Syrian Refugees

In the pursuit of innovative ways to help Syrian refugees, a conference in Geneva considers proposals for other pathways such as humanitarian admission, scholarships, family reunification and labour mobility.
Syria: Hope Returns to Baba AmrPlay video

Syria: Hope Returns to Baba Amr

Twelve out of 36 neighbourhoods in the city of Homs are in desperate need of reconstruction. One of them is Baba Amr, where clashes in 2011-2012 uprooted some 80,000 people. Four years on, returning residents and Syrians displaced from other parts of the country are coming together to rebuild the area.
Syria: Heading Home to RuinsPlay video

Syria: Heading Home to Ruins

Nearly half a million residents from Homs and surrounding areas have been displaced by heavy fighting, some multiple times within Syria, while others have fled abroad. One of the biggest challenges facing returnees, is rebuilding their homes in the rubble of old Homs and Hamediyeh.