UN Goodwill Ambassador Jesús Vázquez visits Syrian refugees in Jordan

News Stories, 15 May 2013

© UNHCR/G.Beals
Goodwill Ambassador Jesús Vázquez makes some new young Syrian friends at a registration centre in the Jordanian capital, Amman.

ZA'ATRI REFUGEE CAMP, Jordan, May 15 (UNHCR)- Popular Spanish TV presenter Jesús Vázquez visited Jordan this week to highlight the plight of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees, particularly the children, and to help raise urgently-needed funds for UNHCR's Syria crisis operation.

"I'm here to listen to what you have to say so that I can help raise awareness in my country about your needs," the UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador told refugees on Tuesday in Za'atri camp, which is home to more than 100,000 people.

"Even though the people of Spain are suffering from an economic crisis, they understand the drastic conditions you have been forced to endure," he said. "In Spain we have a crisis. Here the definition of crisis is life and death."

During a two-day trip to Jordan, Vázquez also visited the Jordanian capital Amman, where he met with urban refugees and heard about the particular challenges they face. In Za'atri camp, which continues to grow, he met refugee families and aid workers in the camp's medical sector, spoke with new arrivals and talked with UNHCR staff about their vital work.

"I'm particularly concerned about the children, who have lost two years of their lives and suffered endless trauma," Vázquez said. "They've seen the worst that humanity has to offer. We need to show them the best we have to offer."

Vázquez said his visit would help generate specific ideas for fund-raising for UNHCR projects in Za'atri and urban areas. On returning to Spain, he will participate in television and radio programmes to call for solidarity and funds.

The popular Spaniard also praised the Jordanian government and people for hosting so many Syrians. "By keeping the borders open and extending a helping hand to Syrian refugees they have literally saved their lives," he said.

Since the conflict erupted in Syria in March 2011, more than 1.4 million Syrians have fled to countries in the region. Jordan has accepted over 460,000 of them a staggering amount which is straining the country's resources.

The majority of the refugees are women and children. UNHCR is seeking millions of dollars in funding to provide protection and to meet their basic needs, including shelter, water, health care and education. The appeal has been about 50 per cent funded.

Vázquez has been working with UNHCR since 2006, using his media access and public influence to raise funds and awareness in the Spanish-speaking world about the suffering and needs of refugees. He has met refugees in Kenya and Tunisia as well as internally displaced populations in Colombia.

This is not his first visit to Jordan. In 2008, the year he was appointed as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, he participated in a concert held in ancient Petra in memory of Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti. This raised funds for Afghan refugee returnees.

By Greg Beals in Za'atri Refugee Camp, Jordan

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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.

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