Syrian refugee crisis: Municipalities on the frontline


An international delegation of elected and local government practitioners, under auspices of UCLG and its Middle East Working Group, visited Syrian border municipalities in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon on 18-26 March.

At the initiative of UCLG President Topbaş, elected officials from French, Turkish, and Dutch local governments and experts from the national associations of local governments in Canada (FCM-Federation of Canadian Municipalities), The Netherlands (VNG-Association of Dutch Municipalities), Turkey (UMT-Union of Municipalities of Turkey) and representatives of United Cities France (CUF-Cités Unies France) and UCLG Middle East and West Asia Section (UCLG-MEWA) have taken part in the mission that visited municipalities having to cope with the great flow of displaced Syrians. Up to 11.000 citizens have moved out of Syria even in the last 24 hours according to the UNHCR.

The Local Government mission team took stock of the ways in which local governments at borders areas have been trying to deal with the situation and has drawn up recommendations on possible forms of assistance that can be offered through the UCLG network.

In Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, the delegation met officials of local, regional and central government, NGOs’ operatives and French and Dutch diplomats as well as representatives of the Syrian community.

Half of the 400.000 Syrian citizens in Turkey live in government-run camps, while the other half live in host cities. In Jordan, over 100.000 Syrians are concentrated in the UNHCR supported Al Zaatari camp. Many others live in host communities. In Lebanon the refugees are spread over the 900 municipalities in the country, without any camp established.

The situation is putting host municipalities in the different countries under strain. The displaced population doubles, in some cases, the size of the autochthon community.  The impact of this population swifts on all basic services, in particular, healthcare, water, sanitation, waste and education.

Local Authorities call for urgent support to be able to comply with their responsibilities.  The important work deployed by NGOs in the region cannot and should not replace local government tasks and responsibilities, specific support to local governments is becoming critical if social stability is to be guaranteed.

The mission’s recommendations will be presented to the upcoming UCLG governing bodies and will be complemented with a global call for action.

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