UNHCR joins call in Turkey for solidarity with countries hosting Syrian refugees

News Stories, 17 January 2014

© UNHCR/E. Argunhan
Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and High Commissioner António Guterres meet Syrian refugee children.

HARRAN-KÖKENLI REFUGEE CAMP, Turkey, January 17 (UNHCR) UNHCR on Friday joined top officials from Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt in calling on the international community to boost solidarity with countries hosting the bulk of the refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria.

The appeal came in a joint statement released during a tour of the Harran-Kökenli refugee camp in south-eastern Turkey, which currently provides shelter to 14,000 Syrian refugees. Those taking part included UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres, Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Jordan's Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Ibrahim Saif, Egyptian Deputy Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Randa Labib and Lebanon's refugee coordinator, Makram Malaeb.

In their statement, they also 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. They reiterated that the refugee influx was a result of the humanitarian tragedy in Syria, and underlined that unless stability and security was reestablished, a solution would remain elusive.

"It is clear that there can be no military solution to the conflict. The solution must be political," the joint statement said. "We therefore appeal to all parties to the conflict to put their differences aside and come together for the Geneva II conference on January 22, where some real steps must be taken towards finding a political solution and putting an end to the fighting."

It 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."

The statement also reiterated calls made last October at a UNHCR-led international gathering in Geneva for more financial aid and solidarity to help ease the burden on neighbouring states.

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.

There are now more than 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.

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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

The Charcoal Boys: Child Labour in Lebanon

Bebnine is one of many small towns in northern Lebanon that have seen an influx of Syrian refugees in recent months. Many of the new residents are children, whose education has been disrupted. A lot of them must work to support their families instead of studying to lay the foundations for a bright future. This set of photographs by Andrew McConnell, documents one group of boys who risk their health by working for a charcoal seller in Bebnine. Aged between 11 and 15 years old, they earn the equivalent of less than 70 US cents an hour filling, weighing and carrying sacks of charcoal. It's hard work and after an average eight-hour day they are covered in charcoal dust. Throughout the region, an estimated one in ten Syrian refugee children is engaged in child labour.

The Charcoal Boys: Child Labour in Lebanon

For Starters, a Tent: A Syrian Teacher Opens a School in Jordan

In the semi-rural area of Kherbet Al-Souk, on the outskirts of Amman, Syrian refugees struggling to get their children into crowded state schools have taken matters into their own hands. They have set up a simple school in their small informal settlement of about 500 refugees. The families had lived in Za'atri or Al-Aghwar camps, but moved out to be closer to other relatives and to access basic services in the capital. But ensuring education for all refugee children in Jordan has proved difficult for the government and its partners, including UNHCR. According to the UN, more than half of all Syrian refugee children in Jordan are not in school. In Kherbet Al-Souk, the refugee-run school consists of a large tent where the students sit on the ground with their text books. All of the students take classes together with the younger children in the front. Before, they spent a lot of time playing, but they were not learning anything. One refugee, Jamal, decided to do something about it. Photographer Shawn Baldwin met Jamal and visited the school in a tent. These are some of the images he took.

For Starters, a Tent: A Syrian Teacher Opens a School in Jordan

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