Operational information on the Middle East subregion is presented below. A summary of this can also be downloaded in PDF format. This subregion covers the following countries:
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Budgets and Expenditure in Subregion Middle East
People of Concern - 2020https://reporting.unhcr.org/middleeast?y=2020
Iraq continued to face political, economic and security challenges, which were compounded by COVID-19. Over 1.2 million Iraqis remained internally displaced while the number of IDP returnees since 2014 stood at 4.8 million. Meanwhile, over 283,000 refugees and asylum-seekers, mainly from Syria, were registered in Iraq, while an estimated 46,500 people were at risk of statelessness. In neighbouring countries, over 241,000 Iraqi refugees and asylum-seekers were registered with UNHCR, while around 31,000 Iraqis without registration continued to live in camps in Al-Hassakeh Governorate in north-east Syria. In 2020, UNHCR increased its support to affected communities, as the health and socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19 exacerbated protection risks, pushing many families to resort to harmful coping mechanisms such as child labour, decreased food intake and indebtedness.
The Syria situation continued to drive the largest displacement crisis worldwide, with over 6.7 million Syrians internally displaced, and 5.5 million refugees hosted in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. COVID-19 exacerbated economic and social distress among refugees and host communities, as many lost their livelihoods and were pushed further into poverty. Inside Syria, over 13 million people needed humanitarian assistance by the end of 2020—two million more than at the start of 2020. A total of 38,563 Syrian refugees spontaneously returned to Syria in 2020, down by 60% compared to 2019, partly due to pandemic-related movement restrictions. Resettlement was also affected, with only 9,230 departures in 2020, a 60% decrease from the 23,076 departures in 2019. In 2020, UNHCR reached 288,780 individuals across the region with emergency shelter, 1.4 million with core relief items, and over 1.5 million with cash assistance. UNHCR also continued to co-lead the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan in response to the Syria crisis (3RP), coordinating the work of more than 270 partners.
In 2020, Yemen remained the worst humanitarian crisis globally for a fourth consecutive year, with over 21 million Yemenis—over 66% of the population—in need of humanitarian assistance. Active hostilities continued to drive displacement, with 16 new frontlines observed during the year, taking a devastating toll on the civilian population. Over 172,000 Yemenis were newly displaced, many multiple times, while only 10,788 IDP returns were recorded during the year. Little progress was observed in the peace process, with the Stockholm and Riyadh Agreements remaining largely unimplemented. The threat of famine persisted, with 13.5 million Yemenis experiencing high levels of food insecurity, while periodic heavy rains and flooding further drove displacement and outbreak of disease. The onset of COVID-19 placed an additional burden on the country’s already strained healthcare services and infrastructure, heightening protection risks and vulnerabilities for IDPs, refugees, and host communities. Yemen hosted some 167,000 refugees and 10,600 asylum-seekers, with active hostilities, ongoing threats of arrest and detention, and the pervasive risk of COVID-19 driving protection concerns and impeding access to services. Durable solutions remained limited owing to movement restrictions associated with the pandemic. Despite the challenging operational environment, UNHCR continued to provide protection services including registration, documentation, case management services for children and survivors of gender-based violence, legal assistance, and counselling for Somali refugees on Assisted Spontaneous Returns (ASR). In 2020, the Operation provided cash assistance to over one million IDPs, refugees, and asylum-seekers to meet their most immediate food, shelter, and health needs, while distributing core relief items and emergency shelter kits, improving local health clinics and services, and supporting educational activities through teacher trainings, classroom rehabilitations, and providing equipment and school supplies for students.
In 2020, UNHCR continued resource mobilization efforts across operations in the Gulf (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates), raising a total of $129 million for its operations globally. For its second year, UNHCR’s “Refugee Zakat Fund” assisted some 1.8 million refugee and IDP families worldwide primarily through cash assistance, recording a total of $130 million in additional contributions for the year. UNHCR maintained advocacy towards the development of national asylum frameworks, providing advice and technical assistance to the Governments of Kuwait and Qatar. UNHCR continued to expand and strengthen partnerships in the region, including among government and intergovernmental agencies, development actors, NGOs and the private sector to support activities in health, education, and livelihoods (among others) for asylum-seeking and IDP populations in MENA and beyond.
The total number of people seeking asylum across the Gulf increased by nearly 10% from the previous year. The largest increase was recorded in Saudi Arabia (40%) followed by the UAE (22%); Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar did not report a significant increase, owing in part to border closures and associated movement restrictions due to the pandemic. While the operational space remained restrictive, UNHCR continued to provide protection assistance to people of concern, including registration and refugee status determination, counselling, medical referrals, and legal support, while working to implement durable solutions including resettlement, though quotas were limited. While governments remained generally tolerant to people with expired documentation in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, people of concern reported difficulties in accessing certain services, including education and health care. UNHCR worked to improve access to basic services, while advocating for the inclusion of people of concern into national COVID-19 responses, including access to emergency health services and vaccination campaigns.
Operational environmentThe situation in the Syrian Arab Republic (Syria) continues to drive the largest refugee crisis in the world. The crisis is now in its ninth year, with more than 6.2 million Syrians remaining internally displaced (as of August 2019) and at least 5.6 million more registered as refugees in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and North Africa.
The scale, severity and complexity of people’s humanitarian needs in Syria remain extensive. There are significant protection risks due to continuous hostilities in localized areas, new and protracted displacements, increased self-organized returns and the erosion of communities’ resilience without enhanced international support. In neighbouring countries, which are generously hosting refugees, infrastructure, services and local economies remain under immense strain.
Between January 2016 and September 2019, more than 209,000 Syrian refugees spontaneously returned from Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. As of September 2019, the number of refugee returns stands at around 75,500, surpassing the total number verified throughout 2018 (55,248). Furthermore, an estimated 341,000 IDPs returned to their areas of origin in the first nine months of the year, according to OCHA. Intention surveys indicate that more than three quarters of the Syrian refugee population hope to be able to return one day.
The number of IDPs in Iraq has gradually declined since 2014, with some 1.55 million people still internally displaced, according to the Displacement Tracking Matrix of IOM in September 2019. Many of the 4.3 million IDP returnees face difficulty in accessing basic services, while still contending with ongoing insecurity, a lack of shelter and livelihood opportunities, and explosive hazards. These challenges have led to instances of protracted and secondary displacement and re-admittance to camps where return was not possible or sustainable. Meanwhile, at least 257,000 Iraqi refugees are registered with UNHCR in neighbouring countries, and almost 32,000 more people live in camps in the Al-Hasakeh Governorate in Syria without any form of registration.
In 2020, UNHCR protection efforts within the Syria and Iraq situations will focus on advocating access to territory, protection from refoulement, registration, preservation of the protection space and available solutions, and protection from violence and exploitation. UNHCR will call on States to increase their resettlement quotas for vulnerable refugees and strengthen other legal pathways for admitting vulnerable refugees, such as through humanitarian visas, private sponsorship or complementary pathways. Despite insecurity and constrained access, UNHCR will continue to strengthen its presence and emergency response capacity to provide millions of refugees and IDPs in the region with life-saving, multi-sectoral assistance. At the same time, it will seek to strengthen strategic partnerships with governments, development actors, international financial institutions, UN agencies, civil society, academia and the private sector for a whole-of-society response. UNHCR will also continue to lead the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP), with UNDP in response to the Syria crisis, coordinating the work of more than 270 partners in the five main countries hosting Syrian refugees.
In Yemen, the five-year conflict continues to exact a brutal toll on the civilian population. There are 24.1 million people in need of humanitarian assistance—more than 80% of the country’s entire population. Increasing food insecurity and partial blockades that hamper aid delivery continue to point towards a threat of famine. In 2019, there were nearly 4 million IDPs in Yemen, with 1.2 million returnees across 22 governorates. More than 440,000 of the most vulnerable IDPs lived across more than 1,500 sites that were ill-equipped to meet the multi-dimensional needs and protection of people of concern. In addition, some 276,000 refugees and asylum-seekers were hosted across the country with some confronted by anti-migrant rhetoric that led to a rise in arrests, detentions and restricted movements, particularly in the northern governorates.
UNHCR will be faced with ongoing operational challenges in the region as the conflict continues to evolve. UNHCR will address growing humanitarian needs with multi-sectoral assistance to people of concern, including protection services, shelter, basic relief items, multi-purpose cash and health support. It will also advocate for a sustained protection space for refugees.
The political and security situation in Yemen is expected to remain tense in 2020 amid complex regional dynamics, while rival factions in Yemen compete for effective control across multiple governorates – creating new frontlines and detrimentally impacting civilians. Protection needs remain high, but insecurity and restricted humanitarian access will continue to affect UNHCR’s ability to deliver assistance across Yemen. It will nevertheless work to effectively coordinate with the Government in the south and the authorities in the north to improve humanitarian access to people of concern.
OperationsIn the context of the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, UNHCR will enhance its collaboration with both national and regional bodies towards strengthening protection for people of concern. Multi-lateral engagement will be expanded alongside advocacy initiatives to inform public discourse in favour of refugees, asylum-seekers and stateless persons. Finally, UNHCR will foster partnerships in the GCC, including regional organizations, to cultivate growing interest from Gulf states in engaging in UNHCR programmes and appeals.
2020https://reporting.unhcr.org/middleeast?y=2020 Budget for Middle East | USD
2020https://reporting.unhcr.org/middleeast?y=2020 Voluntary Contributions to | USD
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