• Text size Normal size text | Increase text size by 10% | Increase text size by 20% | Increase text size by 30%

UNIQLO donates $1 million for Syria emergency

Press Releases, 20 September 2013

The UN refugee agency today welcomes a US$1 million donation from Japan's leading clothing retail chain, UNIQLO, to support urgent humanitarian needs in the Syria emergency.

The funds donated by UNIQLO's parent company Fast Retailing Co., Ltd. will go towards UNHCR's efforts to help more than 4 million people displaced within Syria and over 2 million Syrians who have been forced to flee to neighbouring countries since the conflict started in March 2011.

"UNIQLO's contribution shows that there is an imperative to respond to the deteriorating humanitarian situation in and around Syria not just by governments and aid agencies, but also by the corporate world," said Daniel Endres, UNHCR's Director of External Relations. "UNHCR appeals to other leading corporations to follow UNIQLO's lead. Their help could make a life-saving difference to displaced families and others in great need."

This is the largest cash contribution to the Syria emergency by a UNHCR corporate partner to date. In addition, UNIQLO has donated more than 220,000 items of clothing to displaced people and refugees in Syria and Jordan since 2011.

UNHCR has been working with the Japanese clothing firm since 2006, delivering millions of recycled clothing items to refugees in some 25 countries including Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Serbia and Tajikistan. In 2011, UNIQLO donated $2 million including $1 million from Chief Executive Officer Tadashi Yanai to support the refugee and displacement emergency in the drought-stricken Horn of Africa.

The company has raised funds for refugees through initiatives like the "UT" charity T-shirt campaign. It also runs an internship programme at UNIQLO stores for refugees and others of concern to UNHCR, as well as a staff deployment programme to refugee operations.

Thirty months into the conflict in Syria, the scale of forced displacement has reached levels unparalleled in recent years. In June, UNHCR and its partners appealed to donors for US$4.4 billion for Syria relief operations this year. As part of this appeal, UNHCR has requested $1.4 billion to provide shelter, relief supplies, protection, health care and other life-saving interventions in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. To date the agency has only received 46 percent of what it needs to meet the growing humanitarian needs.

For more information, please contact:

  • In Bangkok: Vivian Tan on mobile +66 818 270 280
  • In Geneva: Dan McNorton on mobile +41 79 217 3011
• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

Haunted by a sinking ship

Thamer and Thayer are two brothers from Syria who risked their lives in the hope of reaching Europe. The sea voyage was fraught with danger. But home had become a war zone.

Before the conflict, they led a simple life in a small, tight-knit community they describe as "serene". Syria offered them hope and a future. Then conflict broke out and they were among the millions forced to flee, eventually finding their way to Libya and making a desperate decision.

At a cost of US$ 2,000 each, they boarded a boat with over 200 others and set sail for Italy. They knew that capsizing was a very real possibility. But they hadn't expected bullets, fired by militiamen and puncturing their boat off the coast of Lampedusa.

As water licked their ankles, the brothers clung to one another in the chaos. "I saw my life flash before my eyes," recalls Thayer. "I saw my childhood. I saw people from when I was young. Things I thought I no longer remembered."

After ten terrifying hours, the boat capsized in the Mediterranean Sea, throwing occupants overboard. Rescue, when it finally came, was too late for many.

Theirs was the second of two deadly shipwrecks off the coast of Lampedusa last October. Claiming hundreds of lives, the disasters sparked a debate on asylum policy in Europe, leading Italian authorities to launch the Mare Nostrum search and rescue operation. To date, it has saved more than 80,000 people in distress at sea.

Eight months on, having applied for asylum in a sleepy coastal town in western Sicily, Thamer and Thayer are waiting to restart their lives.

"We want to make our own lives and move on," they explain.

Haunted by a sinking ship

A Teenager in Exile

Like fathers and sons everywhere, Fewaz and Malak sometimes struggle to coexist. A new haircut and a sly cigarette are all it takes to raise tensions in the cramped apartment they currently call home. But, despite this, a powerful bond holds them together: refugees from Syria, they have been stranded for almost a year in an impoverished neighbourhood of Athens.

They fled their home with the rest of the family in the summer of 2012, after war threw their previously peaceful life into turmoil. From Turkey, they made several perilous attempts to enter Greece.

Thirteen-year-old Malak was the first to make it through the Evros border crossing. But Fewaz, his wife and their two other children were not so lucky at sea, spending their life savings on treacherous voyages on the Mediterranean only to be turned back by the Greek coastguard.

Finally, on their sixth attempt, the rest of the family crossed over at Evros. While his wife and two children travelled on to Germany, Fewaz headed to Athens to be reunited with Malak.

"When I finally saw my dad in Athens, I was so happy that words can't describe," says Malak. However, the teenager is haunted by the possibility of losing his father again. "I am afraid that if my dad is taken, what will I do without him?"

Until the family can be reunited, Malak and his father are determined to stick together. The boy is learning to get by in Greek. And Fewaz is starting to get used to his son's haircut.

A Teenager in Exile

Jihan's Story

Like millions, 34-year-old Jihan was willing to risk everything in order to escape war-torn Syria and find safety for her family. Unlike most, she is blind.

Nine months ago, she fled Damascus with her husband, Ashraf, 35, who is also losing his sight. Together with their two sons, they made their way to Turkey, boarding a boat with 40 others and setting out on the Mediterranean Sea. They hoped the journey would take eight hours. There was no guarantee they would make it alive.

After a treacherous voyage that lasted 45 hours, the family finally arrived at a Greek island in the Aegean Sea, called Milos - miles off course. Without support or assistance, they had to find their own way to Athens.

The police detained them for four days upon their arrival. They were cautioned to stay out of Athens, as well as three other Greek cities, leaving them stranded.

By now destitute and exhausted, the family were forced to split up - with Ashraf continuing the journey northwards in search of asylum and Jihan taking their two sons to Lavrion, an informal settlement about an hour's drive from the Greek capital.

Today, Jihan can only wait to be reunited with her husband, who has since been granted asylum in Denmark. The single room she shares with her two sons, Ahmed, 5, and Mohammad, 7, is tiny, and she worries about their education. Without an urgent, highly complex corneal transplant, her left eye will close forever.

"We came here for a better life and to find people who might better understand our situation," she says, sadly. "I am so upset when I see how little they do [understand]."

Jihan's Story

UNHCR: Syrian Refugee numbers top three millionPlay video

UNHCR: Syrian Refugee numbers top three million

The number of refugees in Syria's intensifying crisis passes 3 million people, amid reports of horrifying conditions inside the country. Iman and her family were displaced four times inside Syria before finally seeking refuge in Lebanon.
The Fight for Survival – Syrian Women AlonePlay video

The Fight for Survival – Syrian Women Alone

Lina has not heard from her husband since he was detained in Syria two years ago. Now a refugee in Lebanon, she lives in a tented settlement with her seven children.
Syria: A Heartbreaking Human TragedyPlay video

Syria: A Heartbreaking Human Tragedy

As the conflict in Syria grinds on, UNHCR and its partners are calling on donors to dig deep to help refugees and host communities.