Lebanon News

Over 23,000 newly registered Syrian refugees since August: United Nations

Syrian children play inside of a refugee camp in Arsal, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. (The Daily Star/Rakan al-Fakih)

BEIRUT: Over 80,400 Syrian refugees are currently receiving assistance from the Lebanese government, the United Nations and partners, an increase of 23,000 since last month. It is thought the total number of refugees is far higher, as many thousands have not yet registered.

Access to the country remains dangerous, according to the weekly report from the United Nations refugee agency, the UNHCR, with difficulties including “security checks, demands for bribes, land mines in key border areas and an inability for women and children to cross.”

“Furthermore, once crossing into Lebanon, many settle into border areas which are subjected to a particularly precarious security situation.”

While over 70 percent of registered refugees cross officially, the remainder come into Lebanon at unofficial points which “prohibits them from moving freely and increases their risk of arrest for being within the country without authorization.”

Most Syrians who have been arrested for illegal entrance to Lebanon have been released, the weekly report states, but the refugee body is “still not given full access to Syrians detained at the [General Security] detention facilities who expressed the wish to meet with UNHCR.”

However, the Lebanese government recently issued an order to prevent Syrians being forced to return to Syria, which, the report adds, is positive news.

And while those refugees who enter legally are now allowed to renew their permits within Lebanon, “a significant achievement since previously it was necessary to return to Syria to do so,” the $200 fee is “prohibitive” and the UNHCR is seeking to waiver this fee.

Shelter has always been one of the biggest challenges facing Syrian refugees in Lebanon, and with winter around the corner, the agency says this issue is a “chronic concern.”

Currently, 55 percent of refugees are renting accommodation, 40 percent are staying with host families, and less than 5 percent are living in collective shelters, the report states.

The U.N. and non-governmental organizations are working to carry out renovations on collective shelters, provide necessary improvements to the homes of host families and to ensure landlords are not charging excessive rents to Syrian refugees.

Another issue of concern is that of education. While the new school term started this week, of 15,000 school-aged refugees being targeted for enrolment, only 3,000 have been enrolled.

“While most school directors are working to integrate refugee children, some are reluctant to engage Syrian youth into the Lebanese education system,” the report adds.

Most Syrian refugees are residing in northern Lebanon and the Bekaa, but around 10,000 refugees are thought to be awaiting registration in southern Lebanon alone, the report states.

The U.N. Thursday appealed for $478.8 million to help Syrian refugees across the region, which included $106 million to assist those displaced in Lebanon. According to Friday’s report, only 20 percent of this figure for Lebanon has been met so far.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 29, 2012, on page 2.




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