High Commissioner for Refugees in Syria region, refugee numbers revised upwards in Turkey

Briefing Notes, 12 March 2013

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 12 March 2013, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, is in the region neighbouring Syria this week. Over the past couple of days he has been in Turkey, visiting urban and camp refugees in the Gazantiep region, and meeting government officials. Tomorrow he is travelling to Jordan, and will be visiting the Za'atri camp and a registration site in Irbid, before heading onwards to Lebanon on Thursday and Friday.

An important new development is that Turkey has begun registering Syrian refugees living outside refugee camps and in urban settings. Previously it had included in its official figures only those refugees living in the 17-government run camps numbering some 186,000 people. 40,000 refugees in urban areas have been registered to date under the new policy with a further 30,000 waiting for appointments to register. A consequence is that the number of registered refugees in Turkey is being revised upwards by some 70,000 people and now stands at 258,200.

During his visit to Turkey the High Commissioner has signed a cooperation agreement with the Prime Minister's Disaster Relief Agency (AFAD) to fund 10 registration centres. He also signed an accord with the Turkish Red Crescent on cooperation in logistics, emergency and contingency support to UNHCR's operations globally. UNHCR is funding an additional 18,500 tents through the Red Crescent.

Registration of refugees and camp management are coordinated by AFAD, with operational support from the Turkish Red Crescent and other agencies. UNHCR provides technical advice and assistance.

Including the revised numbers from Turkey, there are now 1,100,579 Syrians in the region who have either registered as refugees or who are being assisted as such. This comprises 340,524 in Jordan, 339,187 in Lebanon, 258,200 in Turkey, 110,663 in Iraq, 43,743 in Egypt, and 8262 in other parts of North Africa.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Beirut: Reem Alsalem on mobile + 961 71 911 388
  • In the Region (on mission): Melissa Fleming on mobile +41 79 557 9122
  • In Geneva: Adrian Edwards on mobile: +41 79 557 9120
  • Sybella Wilkes on mobile +41 79 557 9138
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The High Commissioner

António Guterres, who joined UNHCR on June 15, 2005, is the UN refugee agency's 10th High Commissioner.

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.

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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.

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