The Middle East and North Africa accounts for 24% of UNHCR’s budget in 2023, with the majority of funds going towards basic needs, cash assistance and shelter. Although the number of forcibly displaced and stateless people in the region is expected to remain unchanged in 2023, many will experience even greater hardship as food and fuel prices rise, having seen their reserves used up by conflict, COVID-19 and inflation.
In Lebanon, the world’s top refugee-hosting country per capita, nine out of 10 refugee households live in extreme poverty, while tensions with host communities are rising over competition for dwindling resources. In 2023, UNHCR will focus on delivering protection and assistance, ensuring refugees’ dignified stay, enhancing social cohesion, enabling solutions, ensuring returns are dignified and voluntary in nature, and discouraging unsafe onward movements, often by sea.
In Iraq, more than three quarters of out-of-camp households have high levels of accumulated debt, with challenges in renting adequate accommodation, purchasing food, ensuring children’s school attendance, and receiving health care.
There is no sign of an imminent end to the Syria crisis, which has generated the world’s largest refugee outflows and the largest internally displaced population over the last 12 years. The overall intention of refugees to return to the Syrian Arab Republic (Syria) in 2023 is expected to fluctuate but remain low overall, with challenging conditions inside Syria acting as the primary driver in terms of decision-making around return.
UNHCR will assist refugees with cash and support their access to health, education, shelter and livelihoods. UNHCR will innovate to maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of cash assistance, one of the most important tools it has for protecting and assisting people. More area-based programming will help forge stronger complementarities between development and humanitarian actors and support refugee inclusion in national systems in host countries.UNHCR appreciates the progressive inclusion of refugees in national services in Jordan, but their huge and pressing needs will continue to require international burden-sharing. In Iraq, as the emergency response transitions to recovery and development, UNHCR expects needs to decline slightly. UNHCR will work with WFP on harmonization and targeted food assistance for refugees in camps in Iraq, and cash and food assistance outside camps. UNHCR will also work to align its cash assistance with the Government’s social safety net and will support a pilot project between the World Bank and the Ministry of Social Affairs on including refugees in social protection at par with Iraqi nationals.
UNHCR will co-lead the protection cluster in Libya, Syria and Yemen, focusing on multisectoral assistance for IDPs, including core relief items and shelter support, while strengthening community-based protection and area-based approaches. An increased number of Syrian and Yemeni IDPs could return to their places of origin in 2023. In Libya, where UNHCR and IOM co-lead the development of durable solutions for IDPs, tens of thousands of IDPs could also return home or integrate locally. By year-end, North Africa is projected to host 458,000 asylum-seekers and refugees, with arrivals expected from countries such as Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Mali, Sudan and Syria. Protracted camp situations continue in Algeria and Mauritania while a continuing decrease is expected in Yemen in light of an ongoing population review exercise.
Refugee resettlement needs will remain high, with 864,000, including 400,000 Iraqis and Syrians in Türkiye, needing resettlement from the region. UNHCR will advocate for diverse State partners to accept those with compelling protection needs under both resettlement and complementary pathways.
To prevent and reduce statelessness and identify and protect stateless communities, UNHCR will provide legal assistance, seek improved access to civil documentation such as birth registration and nationality documentation, undertake studies that will provide evidence for acting on statelessness, and engage in capacity-building and advocacy, including by promoting every child’s right to a nationality and advancing gender-equal nationality rights.
Syria Situation Response
2023 population planning figures
Refugees and asylum-seekers in neighbouring countries (including Türkiye): 5.4 million
IDPs: 6.9 million
2023 situation overview
The Syria crisis, currently in its 12th year, remains one of the largest displacement crises in the world. Syrian refugees continue to be generously hosted by neighbouring countries, but local socioeconomic conditions are worsening and there has been an increase in the negative rhetoric towards refugees, accompanied by heightened calls for them to return to the Syrian Arab Republic (Syria), particularly in Lebanon and Türkiye. The vulnerabilities of Syrian refugees are likely to worsen in 2023.
UNHCR will continue to co-lead with UNDP the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP) in response to the Syria crisis, coordinating the work of more than 270 partners in support of national efforts in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Türkiye. The 3RP will continue to connect the response with longer-term national strategies for inclusive growth and sustainable development.
Refugee returns to Syria from neighbouring countries are expected to remain low. Around 38,400 opted to go back in the first nine months of 2022. UNHCR’s latest return intention survey, conducted in January and February 2022, indicated that 90% of Syrian refugees were unable to meet their basic needs in the host country and 58% hoped to return to Syria one day (against 70% in 2021), but only 1.7% planned to do so within the following 12 months (against 2.4% in 2021).
Syrian refugees have the highest resettlement needs globally, with over 777,000 Syrians identified as being in need of resettlement. Resettlement remains a critical test of responsibility-sharing by the international community.
Inside Syria, significant humanitarian needs will persist. UNHCR will support refugees, IDPs and returning refugees and IDPs by providing multisectoral assistance to those most in need. Using a community-based and area-based approach, UNHCR will focus on community mobilization and building self-reliance, aimed at reducing vulnerabilities and protection risks by providing services through community-based structures and networks.
UNHCR will continue to co-lead the Protection, Shelter, and Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) cluster responses.
Iraq Situation Response
2023 Population planning figures
Refugees and asylum-seekers in neighbouring countries (including Türkiye): 213,000
IDPs: 1.15 million
2023 situation overview
UNHCR's work in Iraq is rapidly transitioning from an emergency response to a longer-term development approach in line with the international community’s transition to a response more rooted in a sustainable development framework, with the Government authorities in the lead. As of 2023, the clusters will be deactivated in line with the Humanitarian Country Team’s decision to phase out the humanitarian response for IDPs and to focus on durable solutions under the UN Sustainable Development and Cooperation Framework (UNSDCF). UNHCR and OHCHR will co-lead the newly formed Protection Platform, informing and providing strategic guidance, advice and technical support to UNSDCF partners.
At the same time, Iraq will likely continue to face economic, political and security challenges. The needs of the internally displaced and returnee population will remain high. They lack access to basic services and have to cope with destroyed or damaged property and critical infrastructure, a shortage of livelihood opportunities and financial resources in areas of return, and a lack of civil documentation. Refugees will need UNHCR’s support in promoting their self-reliance and integration into national systems and social protection schemes.
In 2023, UNHCR will seek to further enhance the protection environment of refugees, IDPs, IDP returnees and stateless persons by strengthening their economic and social well-being. This will be achieved by enhancing their inclusion in social protection schemes and strengthening their access to national services and employment opportunities. For IDPs, this will be underpinned by prioritizing access to civil documentation. Moreover, UNHCR will continue seeking comprehensive protection and solutions strategies and promoting the sustainability of return through small-scale infrastructure projects.