Syrian refugees displaced across the Middle East are living in a constant state of precarity and their ability to meet their needs and live in safety is becoming increasingly challenging. According to UNHCR’s annual intention survey, released this week, Syrian refugees living in neighbouring countries face a worsening storm of reduced access to aid, fewer opportunities to earn an income, and increasing social tensions with host communities. 

Key findings in the latest UNHCR survey* show:

Despite the difficulties displaced Syrians encounter in their hosting countries, the vast majority remain clear that it is not currently safe for them to return to Syria. With the main safety and security concerns cited as ongoing conflict, a lack of law and order, the presence of armed actors, and fears concerning abuse by authorities upon return.

With political discussions, including from donor governments, shifting more and more to the prospect of increasing returns of refugees to Syria, six NGOs operating across the Middle East emphasise that conditions inside Syria are still a long way from being conducive for large-scale voluntary returns in safety and dignity. 

It is now more imperative than ever to ensure that decision makers listen to refugees, address their needs, and increase political support to bring a permanent political solution to the crisis. Only then will Syrian refugees feel truly safe to return.In the meantime continued support to key refugee-hosting countries remains critical to address humanitarian needs, maintain protection space and advance resilience, ensuring that the principle of non-refoulementis upheld.

Lilu Thapa, Executive Director for the Middle East Region at the Danish Refugee Council, said: “Across the region refugees are now faced with a multitude of challenges, from reduced opportunities to earn a living, rising costs of housing and food, and, as hosting countries are affected by broader economic crisis, more tensions with host communities.  It is now more imperative than ever to listen to Syrian refugees, and as an international and aid community we must work alongside host governments to support the resilience of both refugees and host communities and promote their safety and dignity in the region.”

Mark Kaye, MENA Policy and Advocacy Director at the International Rescue Committee, said: “These latest intention survey results mirror what the IRC continues to hear from Syrian refugees we support across the region: that many would like to return one day, but not while it remains unsafe and unconducive inside Syria to do so. Any discussions around refugee returns must centre on the need for them to be voluntary, safe and dignified, and underpinned by refugees being given all the knowledge they need to make informed decisions about their futures. Ultimately, a political solution to the crisis in Syria is needed, but until then donor governments must continue to support those in need, which includes hosting communities. At the same time those seeking safety must be able to apply for protection, and refugees who have already suffered so much, should be able to live in safety and dignity.”



This statement is supported by the following international NGOs: Danish Refugee Council, Durable Solutions Platform, International Rescue Committee, Syrian American Medical Society, Humanity & Inclusion - Handicap International, and Mercy Corps.

*The survey from UNHCR, conducted annually, is only conducted with those refugees formally registered or known to the UNHCR, and with many refugees in the region now unable to register or make themselves known, their situation is likely to be worse than identified above. 

The survey is conducted in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon.