Growing numbers of Syrians arriving in southern Italy

News Stories, 13 September 2013

© UNHCR/F.Noy
A customs boat enters a port in southern Italy after searching for boats carrying people hoping to reach Europe. More and more Syrians are taking sea routes to the continent.

GENEVA, September 13 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency said Friday that the number of Syrians risking dangerous and irregular boat trips to reach southern Italy has risen sharply in recent weeks.

"Over the past 40 days, [some] 3,300 Syrians, of whom more than 230 were unaccompanied children, have come ashore mainly in Sicily. Some 670 of these arrivals were during the past week," UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards told journalists in Geneva.

He said that more than 30 boatloads of people have been involved. The majority have come from Egypt, although some started their journeys from Turkey. "Most of the arrivals have been families with children," he said, adding that "several people have needed hospital treatment for dehydration, and there have been instances of people having to be airlifted directly from the boat they were travelling on."

The spokesman said that a nurse from Damascus died as she crossed last week with her husband and children. Her husband gave permission for her liver and kidneys to be used for three patients in Italy seeking organ transplants.

UNHCR estimates that more than 4,600 Syrians have arrived in Italy by sea since the beginning of 2013. About two thirds of these arrivals have been in August.

Edwards said that most of the Syrians that UNHCR had spoken to said they came from Damascus, with many being Palestinian refugees born in Syria. On arrival, people are taken to reception centres. In recent months many Syrians have moved on from countries at the European Union's external borders to other parts of Europe.

According to the latest UNHCR figures, almost 21,900 people have arrived so far in southern Italy this year. This is a significant increase on levels in 2012, when a total 7,981 people arrived. The main nationalities have been Eritreans 5,778 (594 in 2012), Somalis 2,571 (1,280 in 2012) and now Syrians 3,970 (369 in 2012).

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

Thousands of desperate Syrian refugees seek safety in Turkey after outbreak of fresh fighting

Renewed fighting in northern Syria since June 3 has sent a further 23,135 refugees fleeing across the border into Turkey's southern Sanliurfa province. Some 70 per cent of these are women and children, according to information received by UNHCR this week.

Most of the new arrivals are Syrians escaping fighting between rival military forces in and around the key border town of Tel Abyad, which faces Akcakale across the border. They join some 1.77 million Syrian refugees already in Turkey.

However, the influx also includes so far 2,183 Iraqis from the cities of Mosul, Ramadi and Falujjah.

According to UNHCR field staff most of the refugees are exhausted and arrive carrying just a few belongings. Some have walked for days. In recent days, people have fled directly to Akcakale to escape fighting in Tel Abyad which is currently reported to be calm.

Thousands of desperate Syrian refugees seek safety in Turkey after outbreak of fresh fighting

Mediterranean Tragedies Put Focus on Those in Peril on the Sea

April has proved to be the cruellest month this year for refugees and migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean on smuggler's boats, many setting out from lawless Libya for southern Europe and others trying to reach Greece. The number of crossings has multiplied this month, but at least two boats have sunk off the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, leaving hundreds feared dead. Distress calls have been received from boats off Greece and Italy. In one case last week, the Italian Coastguard rescued a crowded and sinking dinghy carrying severely burned refugees, which were caused by an exploding gas canister at the shelter where they had been held by smugglers in Libya. The UN refugee agency has called on the European Union to restore a robust search-and-rescue operation for refugees and migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean and for a comprehensive approach to address the root causes. To date this year, some 36,000 people have crossed Mediterranean waters to Italy and Greece, as war and violence intensify in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East.

Mediterranean Tragedies Put Focus on Those in Peril on the Sea

Cold, Uncomfortable and Hungry in Calais

For years, migrants and asylum-seekers have flocked to the northern French port of Calais in hopes of crossing the short stretch of sea to find work and a better life in England. This hope drives many to endure squalid, miserable conditions in makeshift camps, lack of food and freezing temperatures. Some stay for months waiting for an opportunity to stow away on a vehicle making the ferry crossing.

Many of the town's temporary inhabitants are fleeing persecution or conflict in countries such as Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq, Sudan and Syria. And although these people are entitled to seek asylum in France, the country's lack of accommodation, administrative hurdles and language barrier, compel many to travel on to England where many already have family waiting.

With the arrival of winter, the crisis in Calais intensifies. To help address the problem, French authorities have opened a day centre as well as housing facilities for women and children. UNHCR is concerned with respect to the situation of male migrants who will remain without shelter solutions. Photographer Julien Pebrel recently went to Calais to document their lives in dire sites such as the Vandamme squat and next to the Tioxide factory.

Cold, Uncomfortable and Hungry in Calais

Za'atari oldest manPlay video

Za'atari oldest man

At 113, Yousef is a very old man. Until conflict forced him to flee Syria two years ago, his life was spent peacefully with his farm, his shop, his three children and 160 descendants nearby. Now, he is perhaps the oldest resident of Za'aatri refugee camp in Jordan. "He was sad when we told him we wanted to leave," says his daughter Nejmeh. "He tells me he wants to go back to Syria…He made me promise, if he dies, to bury him in Syria."
United Kingdom: High Commissioner calls for more funding for Syrian Refugees
Play video

United Kingdom: High Commissioner calls for more funding for Syrian Refugees

Speaking at the London Syria Conference, the head of the UN Refugee Agency Filippo Grandi called for a significant increase in pledges to offer much-needed stability, opportunities and hope to Syrian refugees, who are becoming more vulnerable as a brutal war has raged for five years
Lebanon: Newborn Boy Spends First Winter In A WarehousePlay video

Lebanon: Newborn Boy Spends First Winter In A Warehouse

Just ten days old, Syrian infant Mohammed is already experiencing the harshness of refugee life. Living with his family in a warehouse without furniture, natural light or permanent heat, he is already battling his first cold.