Lebanon News

Registered Syrian refugee population over 85,000: UNCHR

In this Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012 photo, Syrian refugees children stand in front of their tents at a refugee camp in Arsal. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

BEIRUT: The total number of Syrian refugees aided by the United Nations in Lebanon has gone up by over 5,000 in a week and reached 85,239 people, while protection and safety concerns for the growing population loom, according to a U.N. report.

The number of refugees in Lebanon and the region has gone up markedly in recent months, well exceeding estimations from aid organizations. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees report says over 60,000 refugees are registered with the aid organization while over 25,000 still await formal registration. Local charities say there are tens of thousands of more Syrians who have not sought aid from the UN and seek help elsewhere.

In a sign of the longevity of the conflict Syrian refugee children have enrolled in Lebanese classes for the new school year. UNHCR reports there are 7,852 refugee students who enrolled this year after a registration drive by aid organizations. With some families living in Lebanon for well over a year, a birth registration process has also been set up by the aid community.

Most of the refugees are currently living in north Lebanon with 33,549 people residing in the area. But the Bekaa has also seen a significant increase in refugee population and it now houses 25,000 refugees. There are also 1,635 Syrian refugees living in Beirut, according to the report.

Nearly 70 percent of refugees hail from Homs and over 8 percent from Damascus, the UNHCR report said.

Protecting the refugees from being forced to make decisions because of their difficult situation is becoming an increasingly important subject for the aid bodies, the report added.

“Among the most pressing problems identified by UNICEF this week are refugee parents marrying off their teenage daughters to protect them from dire living conditions,” read the report.

Security issues of spillover violence in the border area and clashes around the refugee population still remain an ongoing concern.

“Shelling from Syrian territory continued to hit border towns in Wadi Khaled and various shooting incidents were reported in Tripoli. Fortunately there was no loss of life and no disruption of operations, material lows or human casualties.”

In the past months there have been a number of incidents of incursions into Lebanese territory by the Syrian army and cross-border exchanges of gunfire. Last month there was a Syrian airstrike on a Lebanese border town.

As the winter season approaches, shelter has also pushed its way back to the forefront of refugee issues as well.

“Winter preparations are under way including stockpiling winterization times and flood-proofing shelters,” the report reads. “Shelter remains one of the most urgent issues.”

UNHCR has made a call for over $100 million in order to finance its Lebanon operations which have grown well beyond their expectations.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 06, 2012, on page 3.




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