World Bulletin/News Desk
An estimated 12.2 million Syrians need assistance because of increasing violence and deteriorating conditions in the country, up from 10.8 million in July, the UN humanitarian chief said Tuesday.
But Valerie Amos told the UN Security Council that the delivery of aid from Turkey and Jordan to rebel-held areas in Syria without government approval has "made a difference." She urged the council to extend the authorization for cross-border aid which expires on January 9.
Amos painted a grim picture of the worsening situation in Syria: a 40 percent contraction in the economy since 2011, three-quarters of the population living in poverty, a 50 percent drop in school attendance, and 7.6 million people displaced inside the country and 3.2 million who have fled to other countries — the largest displacement in any conflict.
Meanwhile, the plight of Palestine refugees from Syria in the Middle East is becoming increasingly grave caused by closed borders and a series of forced returns from neighbouring countries, Chris Gunness, spokesperson for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said today.
This forces the already vulnerable Palestinian population to take life threatening risks, such as attempting to escape by boat on the Mediterranean, often with tragic consequences, Mr. Gunness explained.
Lebanon has provided refuge to 44,000 Palestine refugees from Syria since the conflict began. However, on 4 May, the Lebanese authorities returned 41 Palestine Refugees from Syria to Syria who were arrested at the airport for holding forged visas to third countries.
There are currently almost 15,000 Palestinian refugees from Syria registered with UNRWA in Jordan. But shortly after the first Palestinian refugees were admitted, the Government of Jordan barred further entry for Palestine Refugees from Syria.
With the border effectively closed, it is also not possible to know how many Palestinian refugees in Syria have been prevented from fleeing the country to Jordan. Palestine refugees are exposed to the risk of refoulement (or “forced return”) and endure a considerable degree of insecurity.
What’s more, Palestine refugees from Syria who are in Jordan cannot openly shelter in the camps established for Syrian refugees and face difficulties in accessing employment and obtaining civil registration documents (e.g. birth certificates) through applicable legal/civil processes.
Meanwhile, in Egypt, where an estimated 4,000 Palestinian refugees currently reside, entry for Palestine refugees from Syria requires a visa, but these are no longer issued for them. In that country, Palestine refugees from Syria receive some support from the United Nations but their children do not attend school, visas are no longer renewed, and they all are highly vulnerable.
Mr. Gunness also said that Palestinian refugees are also seeking to flee Syria via Turkey but UNRWA does not have a mandate to operate in Turkey, leaving that for UN refugee agency (UNHCR) to look into.
The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) provides humanitarian assistance, human development, protection, and advocacy for some 5 million registered Palestinian refugees living in the West Bank, Gaza, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan.