UNHCR fears for safety of growing number of returning Syrian refugees

News Stories, 12 April 2013

© UNHCR/N.Daoud
A group of Syrian refugees wait in a shelter just after crossing into Jordan. UNHCR is concerned about the safety of people who return to Syria at this time.

GENEVA, April 12 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency reported on Friday that an increasing number of Syrian refugees have been opting to return home from Jordan since the start of April despite continuing conflict.

"During this period, an average of 300 people have been crossing each day, returning to villages close to the border in the governorate of Dara'a," UNHCR's chief spokesperson, Melissa Fleming, told journalists in Geneva. "A sizeable part of this governorate remains a battleground and UNHCR fears for the safety of the returnees, the vast majority of whom are families," she added.

The reasons for returning are varied, including improved security in a number of border villages, safeguarding their property, reuniting with family members in Syria, or travelling to collect and bring back vulnerable family members to Jordan.

But new arrivals to Jordan continue to outpace this limited number of returns, with an average of 2,000 people crossing each day into Jordan. Every day there are wounded new arrivals. The total number of Syrian refugees who have spontaneously returned is less than 1 per cent of the total arrivals.

Although the number returning was relatively small, Fleming said UNHCR was "very concerned that refugees are returning to areas blighted by shortages of food, lack of fuel and electricity and limited services. The security situation is volatile, with reports of artillery shells and mortars being fired into villages refugees are trying to reclaim their homes and lives in."

Returnees are joining hundreds of thousands of civilians in southern Syria who have long been struggling to survive. Basic staples like bread are often in short supply, while health care and education are often unavailable. "If the conditions do not improve, it will be impossible for many to remain there," Fleming stressed.

The government estimates that the number of Syrian refugees in Jordan is expected to exceed 500,000 this month. If conditions do not improve inside Syria, the unrelenting flow of refugees fleeing to Jordan can be expected to continue.

"UNHCR does not promote or facilitate these returns, but we are counselling refugees who wish to return of the conditions they will face. We also undertake regular missions to the border," Fleming said in Geneva. UNHCR is working with the Jordanian authorities to ensure that all refugees have access to their documentation should they make the decision to return to Syria.

Meanwhile, UNHCR has monitored 3,900 returns from Iraq in the past year, mainly from Al Qaim camp in Anbar Governorate to Abu Kamal in Syria. The situation in Abu Kamal is volatile, with bombings and conflict in the province. The main reasons given by refugees for returning are lack of freedom of movement in Al Qaim, limited livelihood opportunities and encouraging reports about security.

"We are closely monitoring the situation and provide individual counselling to potential returnees to ensure they make an informed decision and understand the possible consequences of their return," Fleming said.

She added that UNHCR provides regular technical support in the voluntary repatriations from Turkey through observation of the interviews conducted by designated Turkish authorities to safeguard the voluntary nature of return.

According to the Prime Minister's Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate, more than 97,000 Syrians have returned since March 2011. Of this number, UNHCR has observed interviews with 13,000 cases, or more than 24,000 people. Roughly half of those returning said they were going back to Syria temporarily to check on their homes or to attend funerals. Some said they were returning due to reports of an improvement in the security situation.

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

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.

Posted on 20 February 2007

Non-Iraqi Refugees in Jordan

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.

Posted on 10 January 2007

Iraqi Refugees in Jordan

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

Responding to Syria's Tragedy Play video

Responding to Syria's Tragedy

As Syria's war heads towards a fifth year, the United Nations and partners today launched a major new humanitarian and development appeal, requesting over US$8.4 billion in funds to help nearly 18 million people in Syria and across the region in 2015
Celebrating 10 years of refugee resettlementPlay video

Celebrating 10 years of refugee resettlement

Jordan: Camp Life From a Child's ViewpointPlay video

Jordan: Camp Life From a Child's Viewpoint

A UNHCR photographic project, "Do You See What I See," lets young refugees in Jordan's Za'atari camp share their world and thoughts with others.