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Turkey hosts Ministerial Coordination Meeting of Major Host Countries for Syrian Refugees

Press Releases, 17 January 2014

17 January 2014, Harran-Kökenli camp, Turkey Government ministers and senior representatives from Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt together with UNHCR today appealed to the international community to boost solidarity with countries in the region that are hosting the majority of refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria.

In a joint statement delivered to journalists in the Harran-Kökenli refugee camp near Sanliurfa in south-eastern Turkey, participants deplored the extent of human suffering caused by the Syria crisis, its destabilizing impact on the entire region, and the threat it poses to global peace and security.

Participants reiterated that the refugee influx is a result of the ongoing humanitarian tragedy in Syria, and underlined that unless stability and security are reestablished in Syria, a solution would remain elusive. "It is clear that there can be no military solution to the conflict. The solution must be political," the representatives of the five main host countries and UNHCR said. "We therefore appeal to all parties to the conflict to put their differences aside and come together for the Geneva II conference on 22 January, where some real steps must be taken towards finding a political solution and putting an end to the fighting." They further declared that, "Geneva II cannot be indifferent to the humanitarian dimension of the Syrian conflict and dramatic suffering of the Syrian people. Conditions must be created for humanitarian agencies to have unimpeded access to all the victims of the conflict, independently of their location inside Syria."

Today's high-level meeting was co-chaired by Turkey's Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, who were joined by Iraqi Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari; Jordan's Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Dr. Ibrahim Saif; Egyptian Deputy Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Randa Labib and Lebanon's Refugee Coordinator at the Ministry of Social Affairs, Makram Malaeb, as part of a high-level regional coordination effort between UNHCR and major refugee-hosting countries in response to the world's largest refugee outflow in nearly 20 years.

Participants reaffirmed the outcomes of a high-level conference on solidarity and burden-sharing with countries hosting Syrian refugees, which took place during UNHCR's Executive Committee session in early October 2013. During that conference, the nearly 90 member states on UNHCR's governing board called for more financial aid and solidarity to help ease the burden on neighboring states in supporting refugees. Following today's meeting, ministers noted the continued need for massive international support to their countries, both in the form of increased financial assistance and through burden-sharing measures such as receiving higher numbers of Syrian refugees in countries beyond the Middle East. They also appealed to development actors and financial institutions to scale up their support to refugee hosting countries.

The ministers and UNHCR encouraged other countries to keep their borders open for Syrians seeking protection, to further enhance resettlement and humanitarian admission programmes for refugees, and introduce more flexible family reunification procedures and visa requirements for Syrians. In addition, UNHCR has called for a global moratorium on returns of Syrians to Syria and to countries in the region hosting the vast majority of refugees.

The delegates welcomed the results of the second international humanitarian pledging conference for Syria held in Kuwait City two days ago, which saw US$ 2.4 billion pledged to support refugees in the region as well as those in need of humanitarian assistance inside Syria. Ministers appealed for more support to local refugee-hosting communities, who find themselves under heavy pressure due to the influx.

There are now over 2.3 million registered Syrian refugees in the region, including some 869,000 in Lebanon, 600,000 in Jordan, 582,000 in Turkey, 213,000 in Iraq and over 132,000 in Egypt. Governments estimate actual numbers to be much higher. In addition, an estimated total of 6.5 million people are displaced inside Syria.

Also at the meeting, delegates reached agreement to intensify joint work in three critical areas; resettlement and humanitarian admission; awareness raising and advocacy and humanitarian access and delivery inside Syria.

Guest delegates expressed their appreciation to the Government of Turkey for organizing this meeting.

Read the related story: "UNHCR joins call in Turkey for solidarity with countries hosting Syrian refugees"
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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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