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Number of displaced Syrians registered in region passes half a million – UN refugee agency

Syrian refugees wait to have their details recorded by Jordanian authorities after crossing the border in December.
UNHCR/J. Tanner
Syrian refugees wait to have their details recorded by Jordanian authorities after crossing the border in December.

Number of displaced Syrians registered in region passes half a million – UN refugee agency

More than half a million Syrian refugees have now been registered or are awaiting registration in neighbouring countries and North Africa, and the numbers are currently climbing by more than 3,000 per day, the United Nations refugee agency announced today.

“According to UNHCR’s latest figures from Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey and North Africa, 509,559 Syrians are either already registered or in the process of being registered,” the chief spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Melissa Fleming, told a news briefing in Geneva today.

Some 425,160 are registered and another 84,399 are in the process of being registered. As of Monday, she added, the latest figures of registered Syrian refugees or those awaiting registration in each country are: Lebanon, 154,387; Jordan, 142,664; Turkey, 136,319; Iraq, 64,449; and North Africa, 11,740.

Syria has been wracked by violence, with at least 20,000 people, mostly civilians, killed since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began some 21 months ago. In addition to the growing number of refugees, more than 2.5 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, according to UN estimates, especially as winter approaches.

At the news briefing, Ms. Fleming said that since the beginning of November, the number of registered refugees region-wide has risen by about 3,200 a day, including both new arrivals from Syria and those who had already been in the asylum countries for some time but had not sought help through registration.

“The numbers of those struggling to live on the local economy and who eventually come forward to register are expected to increase as the conflict in Syria continues, resources are depleted and host communities and families can no longer support them,” Ms. Fleming said.

In the case of Jordan, close to 1,000 Syrian refugees have crossed during the past two nights, she added, noting that Syrian refugees arriving during recent bad weather, reached Jordan with soaked clothing and mud-covered shoes due to heavy rainfall.

UNHCR protection teams described the night time arrivals as “fearful, freezing, and without proper winter clothing,” Ms. Fleming said.

The refugee agency and its partners have welcomed some 2,500 Syrian refugees to the Za'atri camp, in northern Jordan, in the past week with blankets, sleeping mats and a high energy meal, with doctors responding to the medical needs of the newly arrived.

As part of efforts to help refugees deal with the winter cold, UNHCR and humanitarian partners are in the process of distributing some 50,000 high thermal blankets at the Za'atri camp. This is in addition to some 62,000 blankets that have already been distributed there to date.

In addition to those already registered or awaiting registration, Ms. Fleming noted, most of the neighbouring countries and North Africa also have large numbers of Syrians who have yet not come forward to seek help.

Jordan estimates, for example, that it has some 100,000 who are not registered. Turkey estimates there are more than 70,000 outside camps, while Egypt is estimating a similar number there. Lebanon also estimates that it has tens of thousands who have not yet registered.

Ms. Fleming said that UNHCR is stepping up its outreach activities in the region to provide registration and help to those who need it.

“This is not easy, given the wide dispersal of the Syrian refugees in some areas,” she said. “In Lebanon, for example, they are spread across some 500 municipalities, some of them quite remote.”

The UNHCR spokeswoman added that contrary to public perceptions, only about 40 per cent of registered Syrian refugees region-wide actually live in refugee camps – the majority live outside camps, often in rental housing, with host families, or in various types of collective centres and renovated accommodation.

In Lebanon and North Africa, for example, there are no camps. Instead, Syrian refugees live in both urban and rural communities. In Jordan, only 24 per cent live in camps. In Iraq, half are in camps. In Turkey, 100 per cent are in government-run camps. There are currently 14 camps in Turkey, three in Iraq and three in Jordan.