Geneva crisis meet agrees to boost international support for countries hosting Syrian refugees

News Stories, 1 October 2013

© UNHCR/J.Kohler
A scene from the crowded Za'atri refugee camp in Jordan. The meeting in Geneva agreed on action needed to help countries like Jordan cope with the burden of hosting so many Syrian refugees.

GENEVA, October 1 (UNHCR) A high-level UNHCR meeting in Geneva on the Syrian humanitarian crisis wrapped up today with agreement on urgent international action to mitigate the immense economic and social impact on host countries neighbouring Syrian refugees.

In a final statement, member states of UNHCR's governing Executive Committee (ExCom) said they were alarmed at the situation inside Syria, which has forced more than 2.1 million people to flee to other countries since March 2011. They acknowledged the profound impact this was having on refugee-hosting communities, economies, societies, services, infrastructure, environment and security in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt.

In the statement released on Tuesday afternoon, they called on the international community to focus support in five areas: Direct aid to governments; financial and in-kind help to refugee populations and the communities hosting them; assistance for economies, societies, services, infrastructure, environment and security; Enhanced resettlement, humanitarian admissions and family reunification possibilities for Syrian refugees in third countries; development initiatives and projects to help host communities to ease the economic and social costs of hosting Syrian refugees.

The two-day high-level discussion on solidarity and burden-sharing with countries hosting Syrian refugees was the opening segment of the annual meeting of UNHCR's ExCom, which was to be addressed later Tuesday by High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres.

The high-level segment was attended by government representatives from some 135 states, including the foreign ministers of Iraq, Jordan and Turkey as well as Lebanon's social affairs minister and the assistant foreign minister of Egypt. They briefed the meeting on the impact that the Syrian refugee crisis was having on their countries and the region.

Also present were top officials from the World Bank, several UN organizations, intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations. UNHCR's Eminent Advocate Sheikha Jawaher Bint Mohammed Al Qasimi of Sharjah was also present.

Syria's conflict, which began in March 2011, has produced one of the most dramatic and rapid forced displacement situations of recent years. Today, an estimated 4.25 million people are internally displaced in Syria, while more than 2.1 million have either registered as refugees or are waiting to register in the surrounding region.

Currently, the UN's Regional Response Plan for 2013, which aims at addressing the humanitarian needs in the refugee-hosting countries, is 47 per cent funded.

Read the full statement

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Executive Committee

The governing body meets annually to discuss programmes, budgets and other key issues.

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

Iraqi Refugees in Syria: 2,000 New Arrivals Daily

The UN refugee agency is increasingly alarmed over the continuing violence in Iraq and distressed about the lack of an international humanitarian response to deal with the massive numbers of people being displaced. After an assessment mission in November last year, UNHCR officials warned that the agency was facing an even larger humanitarian crisis than it had prepared for in 2002-03. But UNHCR and other organisations are sorely lacking in funds to cope with the growing numbers of displaced.

In an effort to fill the massive gap in funding, UNHCR in January 2007 launched a US$60 million appeal to cover its 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 strife torn Iraq.

The longer the Iraq 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.

Posted on 5 February 2007

Iraqi Refugees in Syria: 2,000 New Arrivals Daily

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie meets Iraqi refugees in Syria

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie returned to the Syrian capital Damascus on 2 October, 2009 to meet Iraqi refugees two years after her last visit. The award-winning American actress, accompanied by her partner Brad Pitt, took the opportunity to urge the international community not to forget the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees who remain in exile despite a relative improvement in the security situation in their homeland. Jolie said most Iraqi refugees cannot return to Iraq in view of the severe trauma they experienced there, the uncertainty linked to the coming Iraqi elections, the security issues and the lack of basic services. They will need continued support from the international community, she said. The Goodwill Ambassador visited the homes of two vulnerable Iraqi families in the Jaramana district of southern Damascus. She was particularly moved during a meeting with a woman from a religious minority who told Jolie how she was physically abused and her son tortured after being abducted earlier this year in Iraq and held for days. They decided to flee to Syria, which has been a generous host to refugees.

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie meets Iraqi refugees in Syria

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