Even before the outbreak of the current conflict, in 2011, Palestine refugees in Syria were a vulnerable population. Although they had many of the rights of Syrian citizens - including access to social services provided by the Government of Syria - Palestine refugees lagged behind the host population in key development indicators. The community had higher rates of infant mortality and lower rates of school enrolment, for example, and their long-term future was uncertain.
Palestine refugees have also been vulnerable to the ongoing conflict, as violence has increasingly enroached upon the Palestine refugee camps. Many have been displaced within Syria, while thousands of others have fled to neighbouring countries, including Lebanon and Jordan. The situation remains volatile, with numbers and needs constantly changing, but despite the many challenges, UNRWA is continuing its emergency relief, health and education services in Syria. In Lebanon and Jordan, the Agency is also trying to provide for the needs of those fleeing the conflict.
Most of the Palestine refugees who fled to the Syrian Arab Republic in 1948 were from the northern part of Palestine, mainly from Safad and the cities of Haifa and Jaffa. A further 100,000 people, including Palestine refugees, fled from the Golan Heights to other parts of Syria when the area was occupied by Israel. A few thousand refugees fleeing war-torn Lebanon in 1982 also took refuge in Syria. UNRWA works closely with the General Administration for Palestine Arab Refugees (GAPAR), a department of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, which was established in 1950, and has worked with other government departments to maintain its services for Palestine refugees.
Before the conflict broke out, the UNRWA situation in Syria was very different:
> Read more about the emergency in Syria
Figures as of 1 January 2013