The United Nations began registering Syrian refugees in South Lebanon on Wednesday for the first time since the beginning of the Syrian conflict last year.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN’s refugee agency, registered nearly 100 people on its first day at the new site in Ghaziye, just south of Sidon, with an additional 1,700 having approached the body for registration. But those numbers pale into insignificance when compared with the 13,000 Syrians estimated to be in the area.
Click here or on the map below to explore our interactive infographic mapping UNHCR registered refugees across Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq. The graph will be updated regularly in the coming months.
The new branch comes as the increasingly bitter civil war is continuing to force thousands of Syrians to flee their homes. There are now more than 70,000 registered with UNHCR’s Lebanon branch, (as well as another 30,000 waiting to register), while, as our infographic shows, refugees are flooding Syria’s other neighbors as well. Approximately 100,000 have entered Jordan and Iraq, and another 100,000 are currently in Turkey.
At least 300,000 people have fled the country, a number that has grown rapidly since the beginning of the year, when there were fewer than 20,000 Syrian refugees outside the country. The increase has been the most pronounced in the past three months, with more than 150,000 leaving.
In many ways the launch of the south Lebanon branch illustrates how wide scale the Syrian refugee crisis has become. From last year, when the first Syrian refugees starting entering Lebanon, predominantly in the northern region, the UNHCR’s registration services for Syrians were based in the north, but have since gradually moved south following the spread of refugees across the country.
“There was a need to begin formal registration in the south to gauge the accurate number of people, and expand the operation to assist people more systematically,” said UNHCR Lebanon’s Dana Sleiman.
“We started our program in the north, where [the] first refugees started to cross,” she added. “Later on, more refugees started to cross to east Lebanon, and then we established the presence there, and similarly now, we know of the presence of people in the south. That’s why we’ve established the permanent presence there.”