Treat refugees humanely, work together, says UNHCR, as thousands continue heading into the Western Balkans from Greece
UNHCR, 25 Aug 2015
This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at the press briefing, on 25 August 2015, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
In Serbia, UNHCR and the Serb authorities are working to respond to the humanitarian needs of the more than 10,000 refugees and others who have now arrived there in the wake of the dramatic scenes of the last few days at the Greek border with Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
At the Greece-Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia border, people have been continuing to cross in groups of up to 300-400 and then travelling onwards by train or bus to Serbia. Currently, we anticipate these arrivals continuing over the next few days at a rate of up to 3,000 people per day.
While the situation has calmed significantly from the chaotic scenes of late last week, UNHCR is still concerned about the conditions for people making this journey. Many are from countries affected by violence and conflict such as Syria and Afghanistan. They are often physically exhausted and psychologically traumatized, and they are in need of humanitarian and medical assistance, especially as far as the most vulnerable are concerned, such as the sick, pregnant women and elderly persons. It is vital that these people are treated humanely and that essential assistance is provided. This includes responding to basic needs but also fully respecting the dignity and human rights of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants.
In view of this, and while understanding the legitimate concerns facing the countries in the region due to increasing arrivals of asylum-seekers and migrants, UNHCR appeals to the Governments involved to implement border management measures with humanity and in accordance with their international obligations. Family unity and protection of persons with specific needs must be upheld.
On UNHCR's part, we have deployed staff at key locations including border areas to help address some of the protection needs. In coordination with the authorities and together with partners, we have been distributing food and water, and we are also providing some shelters and sleeping mats and blankets. We are ready to further support the Governments involved.
On UNHCR's part, we have deployed staff at key locations including border areas to help address some of the protection needs. Together with partners, we have been distributing food and water, and we are also providing some shelters and sleeping mats and blankets. We are ready to further support the Governments involved.
More broadly, UNHCR is concerned about the sustainability of this situation. The refugees and migrants making their way from Greece into the Western Balkans are a symptom of a much wider problem of today's record levels of forced displacement from conflicts in Syria and elsewhere. It is clear that this cannot be solved by any one country working alone, and that a comprehensive European response is urgently required based on solidarity and equal sharing of the burden. All European countries and the EU must act together and help those countries whose capacities are already overstretched such as Greece, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia. This includes capacity support, and support for equitable redistribution of refugees and asylum seekers across the EU.
Beyond the EU's immediate borders, and in the region surrounding Syria the number of refugees is continuing to rise following new registrations in Turkey and now stands at 4,089,023 people. This net increase has come about even with recent inactivation of around 58,000 people from Lebanon's refugee database. To prevent a situation in which more people feel compelled to move on from these countries towards Europe and elsewhere, it is essential that support for countries of first asylum is stepped up. Currently, the Syria situation Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP) is just 33 per cent funded.
Across the Syria region where UNHCR manages registration, it conducts regular verification exercises to update information about registered Syrian refugees, review their needs, and inactivate the files of those deemed to be no longer present in the country of asylum, after several attempts have been made to contact them.
Syrian refugees in Lebanon, like elsewhere in the region, are sinking deeper into abject poverty – their savings and resources are long depleted after more than four years of crisis. The preliminary findings of a recent vulnerability study found 70 per cent of Syrian refugee households in Lebanon live below the national poverty line of US$3.84 per person per day – up from 50 per cent in 2014. The same study found an increase in refugees who do not have enough food and are therefore adopting harmful behaviours to cope, including buying food on credit, withdrawing children from school and begging, which has increased 30 per cent since last year. A similar picture is emerging in Jordan, where a recent vulnerability assessment found more than 85 per cent of Syrians were living below the national poverty line of US$ 3.2 per day.
The 4,089,023 Syrian refugees in host countries neighbouring Syria includes 1,113,941 in Lebanon, 629,245 in Jordan, 250,408 in Iraq, 132,375 in Egypt, and 1,938,999 in Turkey where registration is carried out by Turkish authorities. In addition, some 24,000 Syrian refugees are registered in other countries in North Africa. Details can be found on UNHCR's data portal at: movement
For more information on this topic, please contact:
In Geneva, Ariane Rummery, Rummery@unhcr.org, +41 79 200 7617
In Beirut, Dana Sleiman, Sleiman@unhcr.org, +961 71 910 626
In Belgrade, Melita Sunjic, email@example.com, +81 11 343 134
In Budapest, Babar Baloch, Baloch@unhcr.org, +36 30 530 9633
In Rome, Carlotta Sami, firstname.lastname@example.org, +39 335 679 47 46
In Paris, Celine Schmitt, email@example.com, + 33 6 23 16 11 78
In Geneva, Melissa Fleming, firstname.lastname@example.org, office no. +41 22 739 7965
In Geneva, William Spindler, email@example.com, +41 79 217 3011