Protection in Syria

The Syrian conflict that began in 2011 has had a devastating impact on the more than 560,000 Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA in the country. Over 120,000 have fled Syria and are facing new vulnerabilities in countries where they are seeking refuge, with many living in constant fear of arrest and deportation back to Syria. Restrictions on the entry of Palestine refugees to neighbouring countries have pushed thousands to risk their lives seeking protection beyond the region.

Of the estimated 438,000 Palestine refugees that remain inside Syria (36 per cent of whom are children), more than half have been displaced internally, many multiple times. Tens of thousands are trapped in hard-to-reach or inaccessible locations, such as Yarmouk, Yalda, Babila and Beit Sahem in Damascus; Ghouta in Rif Damascus; and Dera’a camp, Muzeirib and Jilien in southern Syria.. Ninety-five per cent of the Palestine refugee population in Syria is in critical need of sustained humanitarian assistance, with restrictions on humanitarian access affecting the number and frequency of distributions. The location of Palestine refugee camps in close proximity to certain urban areas where conflict takes place, particularly in Damascus, exposes inhabitants to high levels of armed conflict.

Continuous violence, displacement and economic hardship have caused significant protection risks and vulnerabilities, including: psychosocial trauma and disorders, particularly among children and other vulnerable groups; kidnappings and forced detention; increased rates of child marriage as a coping mechanism for young girls who have suffered from gender-based violence (GBV), substance abuse and exposure to crime; and exclusion and discrimination. In the context of protracted armed conflict, persons with disabilities, the elderly and single-parent households are significantly affected. In addition, Palestine refugees are affected by limited freedom of movement and face challenges in obtaining essential civil status documents.

UNRWA continues to mitigate the consequences of conflict and displacement through its humanitarian assistance to Palestine refugees across the country. In addition, UNRWA is strengthening its protection activities managed through its programmes focusing on high-risk groups, particularly women and children. To this end, UNRWA is working towards strengthening follow-up and reporting mechanisms on protection cases and vulnerable groups, as well as enhancing community participation for prevention of GBV and child protection.

Programme services have been modified and expanded to respond to specific protection needs, including an improved GBV response capacity through UNRWA health facilities and Family Support Offices, and the increased deployment of psychosocial counsellors in UNRWA schools.

*Last updated: March 2018