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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
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UNHCR country pages

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

Abdu finds his voice in Germany

When bombs started raining down on Aleppo, Syria, in 2012, the Khawan family had to flee. According to Ahmad, the husband of Najwa and father of their two children, the town was in ruins within 24 hours.

The family fled to Lebanon where they shared a small flat with Ahmad's two brothers and sisters and their children. Ahmad found sporadic work which kept them going, but he knew that in Lebanon his six-year-old son, Abdu, who was born deaf, would have little chance for help.

The family was accepted by Germany's Humanitarian Assistance Programme and resettled into the small central German town of Wächtersbach, near Frankfurt am Main. Nestled in a valley between two mountain ranges and a forest, the village has an idyllic feel.

A year on, Abdu has undergone cochlear implant surgery for the second time. He now sports two new hearing aids which, when worn together, allow him to hear 90 per cent. He has also joined a regular nursery class, where he is learning for the first time to speak - German in school and now Arabic at home. Ahmed is likewise studying German in a nearby village, and in two months he will graduate with a language certificate and start looking for work. He says that he is proud at how quickly Abdu is learning and integrating.

Abdu finds his voice in Germany

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

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