Monday, February 24, 2014

UNHCR urges world access to 100,000 Syrians in 2015/16

A Syrian boy at a refugee transit site in Arsal, Lebanon (UNHCR/M. Hofer)
With  no end in sight to the three-year fighting in Syria, the UN refugee agency on February 21 called upon countries around the world to make multi-annual commitments towards a goal of providing resettlement and other forms of admission for an additional 100,000 Syrian refugees in 2015 and 2016.

UNHCR had earlier called upon states to offer resettlement or other forms of admission to 30,000 of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees by the end of 2014. To date, 20 countries have offered more than 18,800 places towards this goal.
There are currently more than 2.4 million refugees registered in the region. In Lebanon there are some 932,000, Jordan has 574,000, Turkey some 613,000, Iraq 223,000 and Egypt has about 134,000 refugees.
"UNHCR remains confident that the 30,000 goal will be met by the end of the year through a significant number of submissions to the United States," spokesman Dan McNorton told journalists in Geneva.
As part of the emergency response, UNHCR is urging states to consider a number of solutions that can provide secure, urgent and effective protection for these people. Such solutions could include resettlement, humanitarian admission or individual sponsorship; programs that enable Syrian relatives to join family members; scholarships for Syrian students in order to prevent a "lost generation" of young people; and medical evacuation for refugees with life-threatening health conditions.
Arsal, Lebanon
More than 10,000 Syrians have fled over the mountains into Lebanon since a fresh offensive on the city of  Yabroud – in Reef Dimashq governorate about 80 km north of Damascus -- and     its outskirts began in mid February. The new arrivals represent a second wave of refugees to escape fighting in the same region of Syria, following an earlier influx in November 2013.
Syrian refugee tents in Arsal (The Daily Star/Hassan Shaaban)
The new refugees are arriving in a town that has already taken in huge numbers in recent months. The population of Arsal, normally 35,000, has now surpassed 83,000 – with far more Syrians now than Lebanese.
Community centers, mosques and other "collective shelters" have long since run out of space. Across the town, a patchwork of blue and white tents and impromptu shelters is filling up any open space. Some new arrivals are living in vans and the backs of trucks. With this new influx, the number of informal tented settlements in the town has climbed from six to more than 30, writes UNHCR’s Andrew Purvis from Arsal.
The latest exodus from Syria began in earnest when bombing intensified on February12.
To avoid shelling, many of those fleeing Yabroud are finding alternative routes over the mountains along rugged mountain tracks still blanketed with snow.
For many of the refugees, the escape to Lebanon follows several years of displacement and deprivation within Syria.