Traumatised Syrian refugees wish to return home


Children at Za’atari camp in Jordan. According to UN statistics, 1,736,162 (1.73 million) refugees fleeing Syria have sought protection in neighbouring countries. Photo supplied

Amman: After 800 days of the ongoing Syrian conflict, nearly four million of Syria's 22 million people have been driven from their homes by the civil war, a senior official of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said.

"The ongoing war has placed an unbearable strain on the population of Syria and the situation remains dire. Families have been torn apart, communities ruined and schools and hospitals destroyed. The crisis has driven over 1.7 million Syrian refugees into neighbouring countries. 

"More than half of these registered refugees are children. Our staff has seen that when Syrian children and their families finally arrive in a safe place, they are often traumatised, scared and vulnerable," Dan McNorton, Senior Communications Officer at UNHCR, told Times of Oman.

According to UN statistics, 1,736,162 (1.73 million) refugees fleeing Syria have sought protection in neighbouring countries. This has contributed to the largest surge in global refugee numbers since 1994, the year of the Rwandan genocide and the peak of conflict in the Balkans.
UN statistics

The latest UN statistics shows that the death toll in the civil war will reach 92,900 to 100,000.
"Many refugees wish to return home. Until that time, we are doing everything we can to support refugees in towns and villages across the region, as well as camps such as Za'atri in Jordan. 

People now living in Za'atri, like other Syrian refugees across the region, have left homes, families and personal belongings behind. 

"These are things that cannot be replaced, but with our partners we are trying to ensure the basic needs that they have are covered in what are very difficult circumstances for all," the official added. Of the displaced, two million have sought cover in camps and makeshift shelters across Syria and one million have registered as refugees in neighbouring Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt, resulting in one of the largest forced migrations recorded in modern history.

"Inspired by the agitation in Tunisia and Libya, the protests led by a few on the streets of Damascus and Aleppo demanding the ousting of Syrian president Bashar Al Assad went unnoticed in the 'Kingdom of Silence' during the first two months of 2011. 

But after the failure of the 'Day of Rage', the wave of unrest started to spread beyond Aleppo and Damascus. And now, even if the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and pro-regime forces are claiming "victories" by capturing new cities and strategic towns, neither the fighting nor the tragedy has ended," said a social worker who often visits the Za'tari camp in Jordan.

About 100,000 of the Syrian refugees are currently living in Za'atari. While an estimated 36,000 of Za'atari's inhabitants are children of school age (6-17), the large majority of them do not enroll at schools in the camp or have dropped out. The first refugees to Za'atari camp were mostly people from Deraa seeking refuge with extended families, but as the violence spread, Syrians from further afar – Damascus, Homs and Hama – headed south. Most arrive with shocking stories of government forces' brutality. According to Jordanian Armed Forces, 400 Syrians entered Jordan early on Sunday — well below a previous influx which once averaged some 2,500 persons per day.

Struggling 
Meanwhile, even though there is a drop in the number of Syrian refugees seeking shelter in Jordan, the country is struggling to cope. 

The generosity of host countries has come at a heavy price and, in addition to this, the Syrian conflict is posing a threat to the entire region with dramatic implications for regional security. There are rising tensions between refugees and host communities and cross-border incidents are becoming increasingly common.

Last week, the UN appealed for an additional $3.1 billion to meet growing humanitarian needs in Syria and among refugees in the surrounding region this year. According to officials, the total requirements for the whole of 2013 are to reach $4.4 billion. 

"Syria as a civilisation is unravelling with as many as half of its citizens in need of urgent help as a result of this savage conflict," said UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, in a statement to Times of Oman. 

"The funds we are appealing for are a matter of survival for suffering Syrians and they are essential for the neighbouring countries hosting refugees," the official added.

The governments of Lebanon and Jordan are also seeking $830 million to support the efforts to provide education, health and other services to refugees who are now in their countries.

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