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UNHCR's Guterres: Syria refugees reach one million

Press Releases, 6 March 2013

Data received from UNHCR's offices in the Syria region shows that the number of Syrians either registered as refugees or being assisted as such has now reached the one million mark.

"With a million people in flight, millions more displaced internally, and thousands of people continuing to cross the border every day, Syria is spiraling towards full-scale disaster," said UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres. "We are doing everything we can to help, but the international humanitarian response capacity is dangerously stretched. This tragedy has to be stopped."

The number of Syrian refugees fleeing their country has increased dramatically since the beginning of the year. Over 400,000 have become refugees since 1st January 2013. They arrive traumatized, without possessions and having lost members of their families. Around half of the refugees are children, the majority under the age of eleven. Most have fled to Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. Increasingly, Syrians are also fleeing to North Africa and Europe.

"This number translates into one million people who are dependent on the generosity of host countries, the response of humanitarian agencies and the financial support of governments and individuals," said Guterres.

Guterres noted that the impact of this large number of refugees arriving in neighbouring countries is severe. Lebanon's population has increased by as much as 10 per cent. Jordan's energy, water, health and education services are being strained to the limit. Turkey has spent over US$600 million setting up 17 refugee camps, with more under construction. Iraq, juggling its own crisis with more than one million Iraqis internally displaced, has received over one hundred thousand Syrian refugees in the past year.

"These countries should not only be recognized for their unstinting commitment to keeping their borders open for Syrian refugees, they should be massively supported as well," said Guterres.

In December, the UN's Regional Response Plan for Syrian Refugees estimated that 1.1 million Syrian refugees would arrive in neighbouring countries by the end of June 2013. UNHCR is in the process adjusting this plan accordingly in light of the new figures. Currently, the plan is only approximately 25 per cent funded.

Absent a political solution to the conflict, Guterres said, "at a minimum, humanitarian actors should receive the funds needed to save lives and ease suffering."

The Syria crisis will be two years old next week. High Commissioner Guterres will be travelling to the region later this week to visit UNHCR operations in Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon.

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UNHCR country pages

Iraqi Children Go To School in Syria

UNHCR aims to help 25,000 refugee children go to school in Syria by providing financial assistance to families and donating school uniforms and supplies.

There are some 1.4 million Iraqi refugees living in Syria, most having fled the extreme sectarian violence sparked by the bombing of the Golden Mosque of Samarra in 2006.

Many Iraqi refugee parents regard education as a top priority, equal in importance to security. While in Iraq, violence and displacement made it difficult for refugee children to attend school with any regularity and many fell behind. Although education is free in Syria, fees associated with uniforms, supplies and transportation make attending school impossible. And far too many refugee children have to work to support their families instead of attending school.

To encourage poor Iraqi families to register their children, UNHCR plans to provide financial assistance to at least 25,000 school-age children, and to provide uniforms, books and school supplies to Iraqi refugees registered with UNHCR. The agency will also advise refugees of their right to send their children to school, and will support NGO programmes for working children.

UNHCR's ninemillion campaign aims to provide a healthy and safe learning environment for nine million refugee children by 2010.

Iraqi Children Go To School in Syria

Iraqi Refugees in Syria: 2,000 New Arrivals Daily

The UN refugee agency is increasingly alarmed over the continuing violence in Iraq and distressed about the lack of an international humanitarian response to deal with the massive numbers of people being displaced. After an assessment mission in November last year, UNHCR officials warned that the agency was facing an even larger humanitarian crisis than it had prepared for in 2002-03. But UNHCR and other organisations are sorely lacking in funds to cope with the growing numbers of displaced.

In an effort to fill the massive gap in funding, UNHCR in January 2007 launched a US$60 million appeal to cover its protection and assistance programmes for Iraqi refugees in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Turkey, as well as non Iraqi refugees and internally displaced people within strife torn Iraq.

The longer the Iraq conflict goes on, the more difficult it will become for the hundreds of thousands of displaced and the communities that are trying to help them – both inside and outside Iraq. Because the burden on host communities and governments in the region is enormous, it is essential that the international community support humanitarian efforts.

Posted on 5 February 2007

Iraqi Refugees in Syria: 2,000 New Arrivals Daily

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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.

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