UNHCR appeals for extraordinary funds for Syria victims

News Stories, 13 March 2013

© UNHCR/J.Kohler
UN Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres (left) meets with Jordan's Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour in Amman earlier today.

AMMAN, Jordan, March 13 (UNHCR) UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres on Wednesday urged donor nations to approve extraordinary funds to help Syrian refugees and host countries, warning of dire consequences if funding levels do not rise.

"This is not just any crisis. It requires a special mechanism of support," Guterres told journalists in Amman, following meetings with Jordan's Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour and Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh.

Appealing to the governments and parliaments of donor countries to approve extraordinary funds, he stressed that "there is no way this can be funded by normal humanitarian aid budgets." Guterres said that if significant new funding was not forthcoming, "the consequences could be devastating for the Syrian people and for regional stability."

The High Commissioner, in a separate meeting on Wednesday with Jordan's King Abdullah II Bin Al Hussein, reiterated UNHCR's commitment to supporting Jordan as it struggles to cope with the growing number of Syrian civilians streaming across the border and seeking shelter.

Jordan is now host to more than 450,000 Syrian refugees. The majority live in urban areas, but about 100,000 are staying in the Za'atri refugee camp, which Guterres was due to visit later Wednesday. Further camps are planned and UNHCR is working with the government on contingencies in case the situation gets dramatically worse.

UNHCR announced a week ago that the number of Syrian refugees in the region had passed the 1 million mark, but the High Commissioner has warned that at the current inflow rate it could hit the 3 million mark by the end of the year. The Jordanian government believes that hundreds of thousands of Syrians in the border governorate of Dera'a could flee to Jordan if the conflict continues at the current intensity or escalates.

Guterres said that although the growing refugee population was placing great social and economic strain on the country, Jordan had been a "pillar of stability" in the region and had a remarkable record of helping refugees prior to the current crisis, including Palestinians and Iraqis.

He said it was essential that the Jordanian government and its people are supported. "Their sacrifice and generosity is something the international community should recognize and support. This cannot be dealt with in a business-as-usual attitude. "

The High Commissioner also supported the Jordanian government's call for significantly more humanitarian support to the displaced and needy inside Syria. "It is critical that humanitarians can reach people in need wherever they are, whoever they are and whomever they support," he stressed.

More than 2 million Syrians are believed to have been forcibly displaced within Syria since the crisis erupted two years ago and some 4 million have been affected by it. UNHCR works through the Syrian Red Cross to reach out and try to help the vulnerable.

By Melissa Fleming in Amman, Jordan

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UNHCR country pages

Non-Iraqi Refugees in Jordan

After Saddam Hussein's regime was toppled in Iraq in 2003, groups of refugees who had lived in the country for many years tried to leave the chaos and lawlessness that soon ensued. Hundreds of people started fleeing to the border with Jordan, including Palestinians in Baghdad and Iranian Kurds from the Al Tash refugee camp in central Iraq.

Aside from a few Palestinians with family connections inside the neighbouring country, the refugees were refused entry and free movement in Jordan. Thousands were soon stranded in the no-man's land between Iraq and Jordan or at the desert camp of Ruweished, located 60 kilometres inside Jordan.

Since 2003, Palestinians, Iranian Kurds, Iranians, Sudanese and Somalis have been living there and suffering the scorching heat and freezing winters of the Jordanian desert. UNHCR and its partners have provided housing and assistance and tried to find solutions – the agency has helped resettle more than 1,000 people in third countries. At the beginning of 2007, a total of 119 people – mostly Palestinians – remained in Ruweished camp without any immediate solution in sight.

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Iraqi Refugees in Jordan

The UN refugee agency has launched a US$60 million appeal to fund its work helping hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees and internally displaced people. The new appeal concludes that unremitting violence in Iraq will likely mean continued mass internal and external displacement affecting much of the surrounding region. The appeal notes that the current exodus is the largest long-term population movement in the Middle East since the displacement of Palestinians following the creation of Israel in 1948.

UNHCR has warned that the longer this 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.

The US$60 million will cover UNHCR's 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 Iraq itself.

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Iraqi Refugees in Jordan

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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.

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