UNHCR urgently needs funds as it scales up Syria refugee operations

News Stories, 22 January 2013

© UNHCR/M.Abu Asaker
Syrian refugees wait to be registered by UNHCR staff in Lebanon.

GENEVA, January 22 (UNHCR) -The UN refugee agency is dramatically expanding registration and assistance for Syrian refugees, working hard to keep pace with the unrelenting numbers crossing into neighbouring countries each day.

Less than a month into the regional refugee response plan for 2013, UNHCR and its partners have launched ambitious programmes of registration, outreach and financial assistance envisaged in the US$1.1 billion plan.

But UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards told journalists in Geneva on Tuesday that the agency had only received 18 per cent of the funding it needs so far. "Unless funds come quickly, thousands of vulnerable Syrians will not benefit from much-needed assistance," he stressed.

Reviewing the current situation in neighbouring countries, Edwards said that UNHCR staff in Lebanon were registering an average of 1,500 refugees daily through four registration centres across the country, and was increasing capacity to respond to the growing needs. Last Wednesday, registration figures reached just under 1,800 people, the highest daily registration figure since the beginning of the response.

To meet growing needs UNHCR has established a new site in the Bekaa Valley, and will be opening a registration site in Tyre in the coming months. "We have also identified land for expanded registration in Beirut," Edwards said, adding that "these efforts will reduce waiting periods that currently stand at an average of two months."

UNHCR is also working with the Lebanese authorities to identify two transit sites to accommodate refugees temporarily until appropriate accommodation can be found. The aim is to ensure that newly arrived refugees are safe and warm.

The spokesman also said that UNHCR planned to expand cash assistance to 18,000 beneficiaries by June. Families in need will receive an average grant of US$240 a month to contribute to their rent and living costs. This grant will increase refugees' ability to find accommodation and purchase needed clothes and kitchen and other household items and therefore also contribute to the Lebanese economy.

Edwards said that an accelerated registration exercise was due to begin today in Jordan, aiming to process up to 1,400 Syrian refugees a day in the Amman registration centre. This number will increase further once the registration centre in Irbid, in northern Jordan becomes operational. The goal is to clear 50,000 appointments by the end of February.

The spokesman also noted that Jordan's Za'atri camp had experienced a massive increase in arrival numbers, with 8,821 Syrian refugees crossing the borders in the past five days. "Refugees have arrived throughout the night and long into the day marking a significant change from earlier trends when the majority arrived at night," Edwards noted.

Some 7,700 refugee families (30,000 people) in Jordan are now benefitting from cash support, but due to a funding shortfall, UNHCR was unable to assist all 8,523 families identified for cash assistance for this month. With 80 per cent of Syrian refugees living in urban communities, cash aid has been instrumental in allowing the most vulnerable households to cover their basic needs such as rental costs.

UNHCR has also strengthened its outreach to Syrian refugees, with close to 11,000 home visits carried out by UNHCR field teams and staff of International Relief and Development across Jordan since April of last year. "These visits have helped us reach the most vulnerable, including elderly refugees with medical needs and female-headed households," Edwards said.

The situation of most urban refugees is becoming increasingly difficult. Many are living in poorly insulated rooftop shelters and basement studios. Many are surviving on the generosity of Jordanian neighbours, who have limited resources themselves.

In Iraq, more than half of the 73,150 Syrian registered refugees are living in refugee camps, with 35 per cent living in urban areas. UNHCR and its partners, including the authorities, have countered the winter threat by scaling up distribution of plastic sheeting, mattresses, kerosene, stoves, heaters, fleece blankets and quilts. Other initiatives include replacement of lightweight tents with more durable family tents.

Tents are also needed in Turkey, where UNHCR has provided 18,500 winter adapted tents to the Turkish Red Crescent. According to the Turkish government, there are 156, 801 refugees hosted in 15 camps in seven provinces.

The government provides health care and education free of charge to Syrian refugees. Since the crisis began in March 2011, the government has logged more than 600,000 visits to health clinics by Syrian refugees.

Meanwhile, UNHCR analysis of registration data for almost 280,000 Syrian refugees registered in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt shows that more than half of the population is children, 39 per cent under the age of eleven. One in five households are female headed. Close to 90 per cent of Syrian refugees arrived in 2012.




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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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