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2014 UNHCR regional operations profile - Middle East

| Overview |

Working environment

The massive displacement of people from and inside the Syrian Arab Republic (Syria) as a consequence of the unrelenting conflict in that country has dominated concerns regionally and internationally, threatening the social, political and economic balance of the neighbouring countries hosting Syrian refugees. Despite the lack of prospects for a short-term resolution of the situation, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon have demonstrated great generosity in welcoming the Syrian refugees and assisting them.

However, the ramifications of the Syria crisis are being felt even further away in a region where protection remains fragile at best. Indeed, the Syria situation has drawn attention away from other protracted or worsening situations, such as Yemen and Iraq. As such, in 2014 international support and burden-sharing will be essential not only to sustain assistance to those displaced by the Syria conflict but also to ensure protection and assistance for all people of concern in other States in the region.

| Response |


  • The Syria displacement grew at an alarming rate in 2013, with close to 2 million refugees fleeing the country, chiefly to Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Within the country, there were more than 6.8 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, including at least 4.25 million internally displaced people (IDPs). UNHCR will focus on maintaining the protection space in host countries through increased burden-sharing, including resettlement and humanitarian admissions, and by working with development actors to offset the impact of the refugee influx on national infrastructure and host communities.

  • In responding to needs of Syrian refugees and IDPs alike, coordination will be central to addressing potential protection and assistance gaps.

  • In this context, the Gulf countries will play a central role, not only in their hospitality to Syrian refugees on their soil, but in terms of advocacy and resource mobilization efforts, in line with their growing engagement in international humanitarian endeavours. UNHCR will maintain its momentum in building partnerships with a range of actors, including the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the League of Arab States.

  • In the subregion as a whole, the Office will advocate for the principle of non-refoulement, accessible and favourable asylum space, and durable solutions. Particular attention will also be paid to internal displacement situations in Yemen and Iraq, where political and security developments could jeopardize favourable national policies on displaced populations. In Iraq in particular, a key priority will remain the return and reintegration of IDPs and refugees.


At a time of significant political and social upheaval across the subregion, security concerns are likely to weigh ever more heavily on asylum policies and practices. Meanwhile, mixed migration flows and human smuggling will continue to blur the context in which UNHCR is operating.

In Syria, Iraq and Yemen, UNHCR faces even greater restrictions in accessing displaced populations due to insecurity and violence, which in turn will hinder durable solutions, including resettlement.

| Implementation |


UNHCR's operations in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen are covered in detail in separate chapters.

In addition to helping displaced Syrians, UNHCR assists several thousand refugees of other nationalities in the region. The majority are from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iraq, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Somalia, Sudan and Turkey. The most vulnerable among them receive basic humanitarian assistance from UNHCR, which also conducts registration and refugee status determination (RSD) and seeks durable solutions, including resettlement in most of the countries.

As a result of heightened security measures and legislative action in Israel, which have restricted asylum space, the number of people entering the country irregularly has decreased significantly compared to previous years. UNHCR will continue to advocate for people of concern inside the country to have access to asylum procedures and basic services in close consultation with national counterparts and civil society.

UNHCR is strengthening its partnerships in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries. Building upon previous resource mobilization efforts, which resulted in unprecedented contributions for the Syria crisis and worldwide operations, UNHCR's offices in Abu Dhabi and Kuwait, and regional office in Saudi Arabia (which also covers all the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar) will work with national and regional organizations to increase public awareness of refugee-protection needs.

| Financial information |

UNHCR's financial requirements for the Middle East subregion have increased dramatically in recent years, from USD 574.5 million in 2010 to a revised 2013 budget of USD 1.44 billion, as a result of needs arising from the crisis in Syria. In 2014, the financial requirements for the subregion have decreased slightly to USD 1.37 billion, when compared with the 2013 revised budget, due to the reduction in some operations, such as in Yemen following the successful completion of the return and reintegration programme for IDPs in the South, and the significant investments already made to respond to the situation in Syria.

These financial requirements are based on the best estimates for 2014 using the information available as of mid-2013. In light of the evolving situation in Syria, any additional requirements as they relate to that emergency will be presented in the Regional Response Plan for Syrian refugees (RRP6) and the Syrian Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan (SHARP), with the situation undergoing further review in the course of 2014.

UNHCR budgets for the Middle East (USD)
Operation 2013
Revised budget
(as of 30 June 2013)
2014 2015
Total 1,448,694,024 1,074,526,576 3,732,621 39,598,855 255,897,381 1,373,755,433 1,339,949,133
Iraq 293,729,337 129,591,438 2,000,001 39,598,855 44,811,415 216,001,709 195,720,087
Israel 3,222,760 2,896,171 0 0 0 2,896,171 2,494,451
Jordan 367,567,319 430,351,224 0 0 0 430,351,224 427,841,224
Kuwait 0 5,000 0 0 0 5,000 5,000
Lebanon 362,024,061 370,282,030 639,282 0 0 370,921,312 369,501,879
Saudi Arabia Regional Office 4,453,371 3,205,486 390,000 0 0 3,595,486 3,858,188
Syria Regional Refugee Coordination Office 2,803,738 3,684,171 0 0 0 3,684,171 4,481,186
Syrian Arab Republic 316,996,216 64,334,792 578,338 0 192,951,405 257,864,535 245,367,453
United Arab Emirates 3,217,460 2,506,493 125,000 0 0 2,631,493 2,641,493
Yemen 72,865,369 37,266,642 0 0 18,134,561 55,401,204 59,538,167
Regional activities 21,814,394 30,403,128 0 0 0 30,403,128 28,500,004

Source: UNHCR Global Appeal 2014-2105

UNHCR contact information

United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East
Style of Address The UNRWA Commissioner-General
Street Address UNRWA
Headquarters Gaza
Gamal Abdul Nasser Street
Gaza City
Palestinian Territory
Mailing Address PO Box 61 Gaza City
Telephone + 972 8 288 7333
Facsimile + 972 8 288 7555
Time Zone GMT + 2:00
Comments UNHCR does not have a mandate to work with Palestinian refugees in the Occupied Palestinian territory.

You are kindly directed to contact UNRWA.


Statistical Snapshot*
* As at January 2014
  1. Country or territory of asylum or residence. In the absence of Government estimates, UNHCR has estimated the refugee population in most industrialized countries based on 10 years of asylum-seekers recognition.
  2. Persons recognized as refugees under the 1951 UN Convention/1967 Protocol, the 1969 OAU Convention, in accordance with the UNHCR Statute, persons granted a complementary form of protection and those granted temporary protection. It also includes persons in a refugee-like situation whose status has not yet been verified.
  3. Persons whose application for asylum or refugee status is pending at any stage in the procedure.
  4. Refugees who have returned to their place of origin during the first six months of 2013. Source: Country of origin and asylum.
  5. Persons who are displaced within their country and to whom UNHCR extends protection and/or assistance. It also includes persons who are in an IDP-like situation.
  6. IDPs protected/assisted by UNHCR who have returned to their place of origin during the first six months of 2013.
  7. Refers to persons under UNHCR's statelessness mandate.
  8. Persons of concern to UNHCR not included in the previous columns but to whom UNHCR extends protection and/or assistance.
  9. The category of people in a refugee-like situation is descriptive in nature and includes groups of people who are outside their country of origin and who face protection risks similar to those of refugees, but for whom refugee status has, for practical or other reasons, not been ascertained.
The data are generally provided by Governments, based on their own definitions and methods of data collection.
A dash (-) indicates that the value is zero, not available or not applicable.

Source: UNHCR/Governments.
Compiled by: UNHCR, FICSS.
Residing in State of Palestine [1]
Refugees [2] 0
Asylum Seekers [3] 0
Returned Refugees [4] 5
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS) [5] 0
Returned IDPs [6] 0
Stateless Persons [7] 0
Various [8] 0
Total Population of Concern 5
Palestinian origin [1]
Refugees [2]
More info 96,044
Refers to Palestinian refugees under the UNHCR mandate only.
Asylum Seekers [3] 3,348
Returned Refugees [4] 5
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS) [5] 0
Returned IDPs [6] 0
Various [8] 3,360
Total Population of Concern 102,757

Non-Iraqi Refugees in Jordan

After Saddam Hussein's regime was toppled in Iraq in 2003, groups of refugees who had lived in the country for many years tried to leave the chaos and lawlessness that soon ensued. Hundreds of people started fleeing to the border with Jordan, including Palestinians in Baghdad and Iranian Kurds from the Al Tash refugee camp in central Iraq.

Aside from a few Palestinians with family connections inside the neighbouring country, the refugees were refused entry and free movement in Jordan. Thousands were soon stranded in the no-man's land between Iraq and Jordan or at the desert camp of Ruweished, located 60 kilometres inside Jordan.

Since 2003, Palestinians, Iranian Kurds, Iranians, Sudanese and Somalis have been living there and suffering the scorching heat and freezing winters of the Jordanian desert. UNHCR and its partners have provided housing and assistance and tried to find solutions – the agency has helped resettle more than 1,000 people in third countries. At the beginning of 2007, a total of 119 people – mostly Palestinians – remained in Ruweished camp without any immediate solution in sight.

Posted on 20 February 2007

Non-Iraqi Refugees in Jordan

Palestinians Refugees in Iraq

Since the overthrow in 2003 of the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq, Palestinian refugees in Baghdad have increasingly become the targets of arrest, kidnapping, threats and murder, prompting thousands to flee the capital.

There are still an estimated 15,000 Palestinians in Iraq – compared to more than double that number in 2003. They live in constant fear, many without proper documentation. For those who try to leave, the trip to Iraq's border with Syria and Jordan is increasingly dangerous. Hundreds are stuck at the Iraq-Syrian border, too scared to go back and unable to cross the frontier. Those who do manage to leave Iraq, often do so illegally.

International support is urgently needed to find a temporary humanitarian solution for the Palestinians. UNHCR has repeatedly appealed to the international community and countries in the region to offer refuge to the Palestinians. The refugee agency has also approached resettlement countries, but only Canada and Syria have responded positively. Syria has since closed its borders to other desperate Palestinians.

UNHCR also advocates for better protection of the Palestinian community inside Iraq.

Palestinians Refugees in Iraq

Al Tanf: Leaving No Man's Land

In February 2010, the last 60 Palestinian inhabitants of the squalid camp of Al Tanf on the Syria-Iraq border were ushered onto buses and taken to another camp in Syria.

Al Tanf camp was established in May 2006, when hundreds of Palestinians fleeing persecution in Iraq tried in vain to cross into Syria. With no country willing to accept them, they remained on a strip of desert sandwiched between a busy highway and a wall in the no-man's-land between Iraq and Syria.

Along with daily worries about their security, the residents of Al Tanf suffered from heat, dust, sandstorms, fire, flooding and even snow. The passing vehicles posed another danger. At its peak, Al Tanf hosted some 1,300 people.

UNHCR encouraged resettlement countries to open their doors to the Palestinians. Since 2008, more than 900 of them have been accepted by countries such as Belgium, Chile, Finland, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. The last group of Palestinians were transferred to Al Hol camp in Syria, where they face continuing restrictions and uncertainty.

Al Tanf: Leaving No Man's Land