BEIRUT: The number of registered Iraqi refugees and asylum seekers residing in Lebanon has increased in 2011, jumping from fewer than 8,300 in January to over 9,390 in June, the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said.
The figures quoted in the “Statistical Report on UNHCR Registered Iraqis and non-Iraqis” dealing with the various Middle East host countries were publically released Wednesday and show that Iraqis constitute around 85 percent of the Lebanon’s UNHCR-registered refugee population of 11,090 in June 2011.
Christians account for over 50 percent of Lebanon’s listed Iraqi refugees, but make up a mere 3 to 5 percent of the total Iraqi population of around 30 million. Some estimates claim that up to 50 percent of Iraq’s Christian minority – which 50 years ago totaled up to 10 percent of the population – has already fled the sectarian violence in the country, ignited following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
The peak number of Iraqi refugees in Lebanon was recorded in 2009, when over 10,200 were officially resident in the country.
The UNHCR report also showed that the number of regionally registered Iraqi refugees has decreased this year, falling from around 194,240 in January to 188,560 in June, although the number increased throughout the year, peaking at around 202,400 refugees in May, and only falling off due to a large number of refugees going “inactive” and failing to contact with UNHCR that month.
Syria hosts the most Iraqis with 39,500 while Jordan hosts 32,550, the report said.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 16, 2011, on page 3.