UNHCR Briefing Notes

Geneva, 28.05.2013

 

1.     UNHCR aid to Syria’s embattled Al Wa’er, Homs Province

2.      UNHCR supports participation of refugees in upcoming Mali

elections

 

This is a summary of what was said by the UNHCR spokesperson at

today’s Palais des Nations press briefing in Geneva.

 

1 – UNHCR aid to Syria’s embattled Al Wa’er, Homs Province

 

In Syria, UNHCR aid deliveries over the past week have focused on

people affected by the recent fighting in the Al Wa’er suburb of

Homs.

 

On Saturday (May 25th) blankets, mattresses and household items

supplied by UNHCR were distributed to 200 families displaced from Al

Wa’er to Homs City. Yesterday, a UNHCR truck carrying humanitarian

relief items for 10,000 persons arrived in Al Wa’er itself. The

supplies consisted of 5,500 diapers for babies and the elderly, 4,000

sanitary napkins, and 2,000 water jerry cans. Two additional trucks,

carrying 3,000 hygiene kits, had to turn back because of the security

situation.

 

Al Wa’er is home to an estimated 400,000 people, of which half are

people who have been displaced from other areas of Homs Governorate –

mainly Baba Amer and the old city of Homs.

 

Heavy clashes between government and opposition forces in Al Wa’er

broke out on May 16th and were interrupted by a two day lull that

started on Saturday. Conflict has since resumed. In the course of the

recent fighting, at least five buildings hosting hundreds of Internally

Displaced Persons (IDPs) have been seriously damaged. In one, Alarabaeen

tower, a family of seven was killed during mortar attacks.  At least

seven other persons were killed in separate incidents, and we know of 32

persons having been injured.

 

The fighting has displaced around 5000 people, with 250 families having

fled to other parts of Homs City where they are staying with relatives.

Many of these people have been displaced multiple times. Other displaced

people crossed into Lebanon last week: Ten families, comprising 33

people, have registered with UNHCR Lebanon

 

A UNHCR team visited one of the IDP shelters in Al Wa’er on May 26th.

The shelter, in Western Al Wa’er, was hosting 2,100 individuals. We

were told that the shelter had been receiving five families a day since

the recent conflict escalation. People living there have minimal

sanitation, little water, and no electricity. Food and medicine were in

short supply, and there was an urgent need for mattresses, blankets, and

hygiene kits.

 

In addition to our focus on trying to deliver additional humanitarian

relief to the affected population in and around Al Wa’er, UNHCR is

also prepositioning relief items in other areas of Homs itself as a

contingency measure for the area.

 

UNHCR once again calls on all parties to safeguard the safety and

security of the civilian population affected by the conflict. We also

reiterate our call for all parties to the conflict to guarantee

unhindered access for all humanitarian actors, UNHCR included.

 

Elsewhere in the Syria region, UNHCR continues to be concerned about

reported impediments in the way of people seeking to cross borders as

refugees. Our Jordan representative reported this morning that some 230

refugees had arrived at Za’atari camp yesterday, with similar numbers

at the weekend. However crossings are still significantly down from the

levels of two weeks ago. Recent problems with border crossings have also

been reported along the Syria-Iraq border. UNHCR is not in a position to

determine the full reasons. It nonetheless remains essential that

civilians seeking to flee insecurity, whether they are internally

displaced people or refugees, have safe passage to areas that are

outside of harm’s way.

 

2 – UNHCR supports participation of refugees in upcoming Mali

elections

 

With the first round of presidential elections in Mali due on July 28,

consultations are under way between the interim Malian government and

refugee hosting countries on including refugee population

s in the

voting. These consultations are expected to be followed by bilateral

agreements that will form the basis of the electoral process in each of

the main refugee-hosting countries.

 

While details of the out-of-country electoral process are still being

worked out, UNHCR is ready to facilitate the exercise by refugees of

their right to vote.

 

Some 174,000 Malians have found refuge in neighbouring countries since

current conflict erupted in the northern part of their country in

January 2012. Burkina Faso hosts 50,000 refugees, Mauritania 74,000 and

Niger 50,000. Smaller groups of Malian refugees are also in Algeria.

 

UNHCR supports the voluntary participation of refugees in these

elections, although our role will be limited to a strictly humanitarian

and non-political one. In conjunction with refugee-hosting countries and

refugees, we will facilitate space for dialogue on the electoral

process, and for registration of voters.  It is expected that

registration of voters in camps and outside camps will be the

responsibility of the Malian electoral commission, who will work with

host governments to establish voting lists.

 

On UNHCR’s part, we will make sure that refugees understand that

their participation in the electoral process is voluntary and we shall

warn against any pressure or intimidation. We shall also provide

practical information on the electoral process to refugees as well as

facilitate meetings between refugees in the context of the upcoming

elections. UNHCR will work with the asylum countries to ensure a free,

fair and secure process.

 

Discussion of voting locations is on-going, but voter registration and

voting itself should in principle take place outside of camp settings.

Special arrangements will be made for modalities such as transportation

by country authorities to voting stations. Host governments will be

responsible for security.

 

UNHCR has previously facilitated out-of-country voting by refugees in

South Sudan in 2011, in Iraq in 2010 and in Afghanistan in 2004.

 

END

 

 

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