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Nearly half of registered Syrian refugees signed up in August
Syrian refugees receives toys from an aid organization in the eastern village of Masharih al-Qaa, Lebanon, Monday, April 2, 2012. (The Daily Star/Rakan al-Fakih)
Syrian refugees receives toys from an aid organization in the eastern village of Masharih al-Qaa, Lebanon, Monday, April 2, 2012. (The Daily Star/Rakan al-Fakih)
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BEIRUT: Nearly half of all registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon signed up over the last month, with the number increasing from 35,000 to 61,000 since early August, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said Tuesday.

The majority, 55 percent, is in north Lebanon, with 42 percent in the Bekaa Valley, and the rest are residing in Mount Lebanon, Beirut and the south of the country.

At a conference in Geneva, UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming said, “The number of refugees fleeing Syria rose sharply in August, with more than 100,000 people seeking asylum in surrounding countries – the highest monthly total of the Syria crisis to date.”

The total number of Syrians seeking asylum across the region is currently 235,000, with around 80,000 each in Jordan and Turkey and around 18,000 in Iraq. Activists estimate the total figure of displaced Syrians in Lebanon, and indeed around the region, to be far higher, as many have not come forward for assistance.

Of the latest total for Lebanon, 16,706 are awaiting registration, a group also included in the figure from Aug. 3.

The majority of Syrian refugees in Lebanon are staying with host families, whether acquaintances or strangers.

“Host families are increasingly stretched in their capacity to host refugees and UNHCR is appealing to authorities in Lebanon to approve alternative shelter options. In addition, some 180 families are staying in six schools due to open this month,” Fleming said Tuesday.

Shelter is the biggest concern to the U.N. in Lebanon. On Monday, 20 families were evicted from the Al-Marj school in the West Bekaa. They were originally evicted last week, but were allowed to return after intervention from the UNHCR, its NGO partners and the Social Affairs Ministry.

The families spent Monday evening in the schoolyard, and contacts with local authorities for alternative options are being renewed, according to Natalie Hawwa, public information assistant at the UNHCR in Beirut.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 05, 2012, on page 4.
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