The head of the United Nations refugee agency today welcomed the launch of a programme to register thousands of displaced Syrians in urban areas of Turkey, stressing this is vital for their protection.
During his three-day visit to Turkey, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said his office (UNHCR) will contribute technical assistance to the Government by identifying the most vulnerable refugees and those with special needs.
“Registration is essential for refugee protection,” he said, calling the new registration system “innovative and an example of best practices.”
Previously, official Turkish figures only included the 186,000 refugees hosted in 17 Government-run camps. But with growing numbers of Syrians seeking assistance in towns and cities, the Government recently decided to include urban refugees.
Under the new policy, some 40,000 refugees in urban areas have been registered to date, with a further 30,000 waiting for appointments to register.
Mr. Guterres signed a cooperation agreement with the Turkish disaster relief agency to fund 10 more registration centres as well as an accord with the Turkish Red Crescent on cooperation in logistics, emergency and contingency support to UNHCR’s operations around the world. In addition, UNHCR is funding the production of an additional 18,500 tents through the Red Crescent.
At a press conference in Ankara, Mr. Guterres called on the international community to “establish a much stronger bilateral cooperation with Turkey, supporting this remarkable effort, not only helping refugees but contributing to the stability of the region.”
He also warned that there could be up to 3 million refugees by the end of the year if the conflict continues. Syria has been wracked by violence since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011. Up to 70,000 people have died, more than 1 million have fled to neighbouring countries, and 2 million have been internally displaced.
“Our key objective is to make sure that, whatever the dimension of the tragedy, borders and protection space remain open,” Mr. Guterres said, while praising Turkey’s response to the crisis by welcoming all Syrians regardless of ethnic or religious background into the country.
During his visit, Mr. Guterres also met some of the Syrians living in camps when he toured Nizip Camp, home to almost 9,000 refugees in the province of Gaziantep.