Lebanon + 1 more

Lebanese refugees in Syria return update - 17 Aug 2006

Damascus
All throughout the day, Lebanese refugees were returning in high numbers to their areas of origin, regardless of whether their homes are still intact or not.

UNHCR field teams at Al Aarida reported that less cars were spotted, while commercial buses were on increase.

The far most frequented border today will be again Yabous (Damascus). At 9 am the UNHCR team reported 3,300 returnees in the early morning hours.

As of today, UNHCR buses from Damascus will go to Beirut and Tripoli only. Southern destinations have been canceled, due to traffic jams in Lebanon and incidents occurred yesterday, where Lebanese refugees reportedly forced the drivers to drop them off in several hardly accessible villages along the road.

Figures and destinations of 16 August at midnight.

Al Aarida : 2,155

Beirut: 45%

Tripoli: 15 %

Tyre, Sidon: 12%

Nabatiye: 12%

Al Dahieh (= southern suburb of Beirut): 8%

Other places in the south: 8%

Dabbusieh: 2,950

Beirut (including Al Dahieh): 50%

Tripoli: 40%

South Lebanon: 10%

Jussieh: 4,439

Baalbek: 60%

Al Dahieh: 25%

Beirut: 5%

Al Qaa: 5%

Sayda, Tyre: 5%

Yabous: 26,200

Tyre: 29%

Al Dahieh: 20%

Baalbek: 18%

Bekaa valley: 17%

West Bekaa valley: 10%

Others: 6%

Estimated total 14 August: 15, 040

Estimated total 15 August: 30, 240

Estimated total 16 August: 35, 744

GRAND TOTAL: 81, 024

Transportation

Together with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), UNHCR is organizing buses on a daily basis. Many Lebanese refugees expressed their gratefulness at being transported home, saying that they would not have the money to pay for a taxi now.

From Damascus: 10 buses are on standby today.

Destinations: Beirut, Tripoli, Zahleh

From Homs: Buses are on standby

Destinations: Beirut, Tripoli, Hermel, Baalbek

Shuttle service Yabous border

In addition to the organized transportation UNHCR is also offering a shuttle service at Yabous border, through the no-man's-land from the Syrian checkpoint to the Lebanese side (Masnaa'), where Lebanese taxis are already waiting.

The shuttle service is mainly used by groups of vulnerable refugees.

Return packages

On the four border points, where UNHCR staff is present 24 hours a day, we continue to distribute return packages to Lebanese, containing:

-1,5l of mineral water

-high energy biscuits, bread, canned meat (by WFP)

-wet towels and rehydration salts (by UNICEF)

Returning refugees are also being advised on eventual dangers they might encounter back home, especially regarding unexploded ordinances.

Residual caseload

Despite the high return figures UNHCR Syria is prepared to assist an eventual remaining caseload of 50,000 Lebanese refugees who might for one reason or another opt to stay here for the time being.

For further information pls contact:

UNHCR Syria
Annette Rehrl
- Public Information ERT -
cell: 093 - 517 285
email: syrdavi2@unhcr.org