UNHCR appealing for more space and support for Syrian refugees in Iraq

Briefing Notes, 2 April 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 2 April 2013, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

With the Syria crisis now into its third year, and refugees continuing to cross borders to neighbouring countries in large numbers, pressure to accommodate refugees is growing. UNHCR is particularly concerned at the present situation in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, where refugees are arriving at a rate of 800-900 people per day double the rate of just three months ago. The need for space for new camps, and to decongest existing camps is of paramount importance.

The situation at Domiz camp, in northwest Iraq's Dohuk Governorate, is especially worrying. The Domiz camp is currently housing around 35,000 Syrian refugees and is critically overcrowded. Thousands of families are sharing tents with newly arrived refugees as almost 3,500 families do not have their own shelters.

The crowding is in turn having an impact on sanitation, which is already below humanitarian standards. Congestion and warmer temperatures are increasing vulnerability to outbreaks of diseases as well as to tension between camp residents. The number of children below 5 years of age suffering from diarrhoea in the camp has doubled in recent weeks: Since February, on average nine children out of every hundred suffer from diarrhoea per week. Additionally, there have been 62 cases of Hepatitis A since the beginning of the year. UNHCR, UNICEF and WHO are conducting a joint assessment to address the observed increase.

UNHCR has been working with the Government of Iraq and authorities in Kurdistan since last October with a view to ensuring the allocation of more space. The hospitality and support to Syrian refugees demonstrated by the Government and the people of Iraq has been extraordinary. UNHCR is encouraged by a recent decision of the Governorate of Erbil and Suleymania to allocate more space. However, the allocated space can accommodate only 25,000 people or only one third of the need.

As of 28 of March, 121,320 Syrian refugees have registered in Iraq. More than 90 per cent are hosted in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Most new arrivals are families from Qamishli city, while others come from Hassakeh, Aleppo and Damascus. While refugee camps have been established at Al Qa'im and Dohuk, more than 60 per cent of registered refugees in the Kurdistan Region are being hosted by Iraqi communities or are living in unfinished houses/apartments.

UNHCR has a permanent presence at both Domiz and Al Qa'im. Together with partners and the Government, we are responding to the needs of urban refugees and those living in the camps through support to the reception and registration mechanisms, distribution of emergency shelter and essential life sustaining items such as blankets, mattresses, and kitchen sets, and help for people to access education, health, and other activities. During 2012 almost 5,000 kits with core relief items were distributed to some 7,500 Syrian refugees in Domiz and Al Qa'im refugee camps. Last winter UNHCR, partner agencies and the Government distributed some 25,000 thermal blankets in addition to heaters, kerosene and quilts as part of winter aid.

Elsewhere in the region the flight of refugees from Syria is continuing. As of 28 March 1,217,782 Syrians had been registered or are awaiting registration in the region. Registration is a key tool through which refugees are identified, protected and assisted, and UNHCR has introduced extraordinary measures to expand registration capacities. These have included the establishment of new registration centres, double shifts, and emergency procedures, resulting in a significant reduction of the waiting period.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Baghdad: Natalia Prokopchuk on mobile +964 780 921 7341
  • In Beirut: Reem Alsalem on mobile + 961 71 911 388
  • In Geneva: Adrian Edwards on mobile +41 79 557 9120
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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.

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

Displaced inside Syria: UNHCR and its Dedicated Staff help the Needy

The violence inside Syria continues to drive people from their homes, with some seeking shelter elsewhere in their country and others risking the crossing into neighbouring countries. The United Nations estimates that up to 4 million people are in need of help, including some 2 million believed to be internally displaced.

The UN refugee agency has 350 staff working inside Syria. Despite the insecurity, they continue to distribute vital assistance in the cities of Damascus, Aleppo, Al Hassakeh and Homs. Thanks to their work and dedication, more than 350,000 people have received non-food items such as blankets, kitchen sets and mattresses. These are essential items for people who often flee their homes with no more than the clothes on their backs. Cash assistance has been given to more than 10,600 vulnerable Syrian families.

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