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Middle East and North Africa

2014 UNHCR country operations profile - Middle East and North Africa (MENA)


  • The world has seen the conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic (Syria) generate extraordinary levels of displacement. By the third quarter of 2013, the number of Syrians forced to flee their country had reached well over 2 million. Another 4 million people were displaced within Syria. The burden placed on neighbouring States is significant. Lebanon, in particular, has seen the Syrian influx increase its population by a fifth. In Jordan, the Zaatari refugee camp has grown to become the country's third-largest "city". International solidarity and burden sharing has become even more critical for the hosting countries in order to enable them to continue to provide Syrian refugees with the assistance and protection they so badly need.

  • The humanitarian effects of the Syria conflict have spread to North Africa and beyond. Many boats carrying Syrian refugees, as well as Palestinians who had been living in Syria, have plied dangerous sea routes from Egypt or Libya to Europe. Not all have made it to their destination, and hundreds of Syrians and others have perished at sea.

  • Inside Syria, the humanitarian situation is perilous. The Government estimates that some 4.25 million people are displaced internally across the country, while more than 6.8 million are in need of humanitarian assistance, and the numbers continue to grow. However, the dangerous conditions within the country have made it extremely difficult to get aid to those who need it most.

  • UNHCR has mounted a large-scale response to the Syria situation in partnership with the host countries. In collaboration with other agencies, it has coordinated the Regional Response Plan (RRP) for refugees and the related implementation process, and has joined the inter-agency efforts to assist the internally displaced in Syria under the framework of the national Syrian Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan (SHARP). In view of the unabated and massive displacement, UNHCR will continue to implement its large-scale response programmes in 2014.

  • In Yemen, growing socio-political and economic crises and a serious decline in security present obstacles to meeting the humanitarian needs of hundreds of thousands of refugees. By July 2013, more than 50,000 people from the Horn of Africa had landed on Yemen's shores. This influx of refugees and asylum-seekers in mixed-migration flows is expected to continue in 2014.

  • In addition to the 239,000 refugees it hosts currently, Yemen also has some 344,000 internally displaced people (IDPs). Among the important tasks for UNHCR Yemen in 2014 will be to find durable solutions for these IDPs and assist them in their sustainable reintegration as part of overall UN efforts. It will therefore be of critical importance for Yemen to receive adequate support from the international community in order to meet the humanitarian needs of these refugees and IDPs.

  • Concerted advocacy and fundraising efforts in the Gulf region have led to noteworthy results, including Kuwait's unprecedented contribution of USD 110 million to UNHCR's work in response to the Syria emergency in 2013. The donation is the biggest from this region in the history of UNHCR.

  • North Africa continues to face large mixed-migration flows, especially from sub-Saharan Africa. While most of the countries in North Africa are signatories to the 1951 Refugee Convention, the general absence of national asylum systems means that UNHCR must itself undertake refugee status determination (RSD) in the region, creating a need for considerable resources to manage this essential protection function. UNHCR's work in North Africa is also made more challenging because of the limited scope for durable solutions in the region.

  • The inflow of Syrian refugees enlarged the refugee population in North Africa in 2013. Some 141,000 Syrian refugees were registered in the region, primarily in Egypt. UNHCR also saw an increase in the number of asylum-seekers from Sudan, South Sudan and Côte d'Ivoire. Most of the refugees in North Africa live in urban areas, with the exception of those residing in camps in Algeria, Egypt and Mauritania. Resettlement remains the main durable solution for these people and is used as a protection tool for the most vulnerable among them.

  • Egypt is a transit and a destination country for many refugees and asylum-seekers, mainly from Eritrea, Somalia and Sudan. In addition, more than 126,000 Syrian refugees have been registered in the country since the crisis in Syria started. Though the political unrest in Egypt in 2013 has led to new security measures being introduced for asylum-seekers and refugees, Syrian and Sudanese refugees continue to have access to government health and education services.

  • Some 74,000 Malian refugees reside in Mbera camp in Mauritania, near the border with Mali. Registration conducted by UNHCR and the Government continues to form the basis for identifying the protection needs of these refugees.

  • Shousha Camp in Tunisia was closed at the end of June 2013. This followed the departure of the last of 3,250 refugees from the camp who were accepted for resettlement. UNHCR will work with the Government and other international organizations to find solutions for the 300 rejected asylum-seekers and 400 recognized refugees who were previously living in the camp and have now moved to urban areas. In Libya, UNHCR has been permitted to resume registration and RSD pending the finalization of a memorandum of understanding with the Government.

  • The Sahrawi refugees in the Tindouf camps in Algeria continue to receive protection and assistance despite the remote location and harsh living conditions. The Confidence Building Measures (CBM) programme, which UNHCR has been running since 2004, will continue in 2014 in an effort to meet the humanitarian needs of families who have been separated for a prolonged period of time. The programme aims to reduce their psychological isolation and restore family and community links.


Maintaining protection space

UNHCR's strategy in 2014 will focus on maintaining the protection space for all refugees in host countries. In the case of Syrian refugees, to reduce the strain on the hosting countries, the Office will seek to enlarge the resettlement programme for vulnerable refugees and expand the engagement of development actors in supporting communities hosting them. In urban areas, UNHCR will promote self-reliance and refugees' access to social services. The Office will also collaborate with all actors affected by mixed-migration movements and encourage a comprehensive human rights-based approach to this phenomenon.

Sustaining assistance to vulnerable refugees

UNHCR will identify vulnerable refugees and respond to their needs in collaboration with NGOs, civil society and host governments. It will also help vulnerable refugees to obtain access to basic social, education and health services.

Responding to new emergencies

In view of the constantly changing political and security situation in the Middle East and North Africa, UNHCR will regularly update its contingency plans so that it can provide a swift and coordinated response to any new emergency in the region.

Pursuing durable solutions

UNHCR will search for return solutions in those refugee operations where they are appropriate, as in the case of Malian and Iraqi refugees. It will also make it a priority to support the creation of national asylum systems. Resettlement will be pursued as a solution and a vital protection tool for vulnerable refugees. UNHCR will also support the efforts of the authorities in the region to find sustainable solutions for IDPs.

Building partnerships with local organizations and civil society

UNHCR will seek new partnerships with emerging civil-society institutions in the Middle East and North Africa region while advancing its existing relationships with local organizations. UNHCR also plans to strengthen its ties with regional bodies, including the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the League of Arab States. In the GCC region, the focus will be on intensifying donor outreach.

Supporting the creation of asylum systems

Several countries in North Africa, including Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia, have expressed interest in engaging with UNHCR to establish national asylum laws and procedures. UNHCR will build upon this momentum in 2014, and where needed, offer the Governments of these countries support and technical advice on related legislative matters.


The magnitude of the displacement resulting from the conflict in Syria is unmatched. Should the current situation continue, with further conflict and displacement in 2014, UNHCR may be confronted by new difficulties in reaching and assisting displaced populations, as well as in maintaining the high level of funding required for the Syria operation.

Other challenges are posed by State asylum policies dominated by security concerns and the absence of national and regional strategies to manage mixed migration movements.


The organization-wide move in 2010 from a resource-based to a comprehensive needs-based methodology for planning and budgeting explains the significant increase in the region's financial requirements as of 2010, when compared with previous years. More recently, UNHCR's financial requirements in the region have seen a sharp increase, from USD 621.5 million in 2010 to a revised 2013 budget of USD 1.6 billion, as a result of the response to the Syria crisis.

In 2014, the financial requirements for the region are set at USD 1.5 billion. These 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 related to that emergency will be presented in the Regional Response Plan for Syrian refugees (RRP6) and the Syrian Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan (SHARP). The situation will undergo further review in the course of 2014.

UNHCR budgets for the Middle East and North Africa (USD)
Operation 2013
Revised budget
(as of 30 June 2013)
2014 2015
Total 1,615,832,431 1,232,331,410 4,242,583 39,598,855 256,047,381 1,532,220,229 1,494,598,246
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
Subtotal 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
Algeria 28,170,158 32,659,529 0 0 0 32,659,529 32,742,980
Egypt Regional Office 63,048,620 65,034,985 69,962 0 0 65,104,948 65,104,196
Libya 17,255,113 17,508,000 340,000 0 150,000 17,998,000 18,359,760
Mauritania 29,967,648 23,960,463 0 0 0 23,960,463 22,393,871
Morocco 3,268,226 3,516,920 0 0 0 3,516,920 3,516,920
Tunisia 14,578,650 5,836,778 0 0 0 5,836,778 4,200,000
Western Sahara (Confidence Building Measures) 10,381,830 8,838,157 0 0 0 8,838,157 7,931,386
Regional activities 468,161 450,000 100,000 0 0 550,000 400,000
Subtotal 167,138,406 157,804,834 509,962 0 150,000 158,464,796 154,649,114

Source: UNHCR Global Appeal 2014-2105




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