• Text size Normal size text | Increase text size by 10% | Increase text size by 20% | Increase text size by 30%

UNHCR's Guterres: Syria refugees reach one million

Press Releases, 6 March 2013

Data received from UNHCR's offices in the Syria region shows that the number of Syrians either registered as refugees or being assisted as such has now reached the one million mark.

"With a million people in flight, millions more displaced internally, and thousands of people continuing to cross the border every day, Syria is spiraling towards full-scale disaster," said UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres. "We are doing everything we can to help, but the international humanitarian response capacity is dangerously stretched. This tragedy has to be stopped."

The number of Syrian refugees fleeing their country has increased dramatically since the beginning of the year. Over 400,000 have become refugees since 1st January 2013. They arrive traumatized, without possessions and having lost members of their families. Around half of the refugees are children, the majority under the age of eleven. Most have fled to Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. Increasingly, Syrians are also fleeing to North Africa and Europe.

"This number translates into one million people who are dependent on the generosity of host countries, the response of humanitarian agencies and the financial support of governments and individuals," said Guterres.

Guterres noted that the impact of this large number of refugees arriving in neighbouring countries is severe. Lebanon's population has increased by as much as 10 per cent. Jordan's energy, water, health and education services are being strained to the limit. Turkey has spent over US$600 million setting up 17 refugee camps, with more under construction. Iraq, juggling its own crisis with more than one million Iraqis internally displaced, has received over one hundred thousand Syrian refugees in the past year.

"These countries should not only be recognized for their unstinting commitment to keeping their borders open for Syrian refugees, they should be massively supported as well," said Guterres.

In December, the UN's Regional Response Plan for Syrian Refugees estimated that 1.1 million Syrian refugees would arrive in neighbouring countries by the end of June 2013. UNHCR is in the process adjusting this plan accordingly in light of the new figures. Currently, the plan is only approximately 25 per cent funded.

Absent a political solution to the conflict, Guterres said, "at a minimum, humanitarian actors should receive the funds needed to save lives and ease suffering."

The Syria crisis will be two years old next week. High Commissioner Guterres will be travelling to the region later this week to visit UNHCR operations in Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon.


Press contacts:

  • Melissa Fleming +41 79 557 9122 fleming@unhcr.org
  • Sybella Wilkes +41 79 557 9138 wilkes@unhcr.org
  • Adrian Edwards +41 79 557 9120 edwards@unhcr.org
  • Reem Alsalem +961 71 911 388 alsalem@unhcr.org



UNHCR country pages

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie meets Iraqi refugees in Syria

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie returned to the Syrian capital Damascus on 2 October, 2009 to meet Iraqi refugees two years after her last visit. The award-winning American actress, accompanied by her partner Brad Pitt, took the opportunity to urge the international community not to forget the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees who remain in exile despite a relative improvement in the security situation in their homeland. Jolie said most Iraqi refugees cannot return to Iraq in view of the severe trauma they experienced there, the uncertainty linked to the coming Iraqi elections, the security issues and the lack of basic services. They will need continued support from the international community, she said. The Goodwill Ambassador visited the homes of two vulnerable Iraqi families in the Jaramana district of southern Damascus. She was particularly moved during a meeting with a woman from a religious minority who told Jolie how she was physically abused and her son tortured after being abducted earlier this year in Iraq and held for days. They decided to flee to Syria, which has been a generous host to refugees.

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie meets Iraqi refugees in Syria

Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

As world concern grows over the plight of hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrians, including more than 200,000 refugees, UNHCR staff are working around the clock to provide vital assistance in neighbouring countries. At the political level, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres was due on Thursday (August 30) to address a closed UN Security Council session on Syria.

Large numbers have crossed into Lebanon to escape the violence in Syria. By the end of August, more than 53,000 Syrians across Lebanon had registered or received appointments to be registered. UNHCR's operations for Syrian refugees in Tripoli and the Bekaa Valley resumed on August 28 after being briefly suspended due to insecurity.

Many of the refugees are staying with host families in some of the poorest areas of Lebanon or in public buildings, including schools. This is a concern as the school year starts soon. UNHCR is urgently looking for alternative shelter. The majority of the people looking for safety in Lebanon are from Homs, Aleppo and Daraa and more than half are aged under 18. As the conflict in Syria continues, the situation of the displaced Syrians in Lebanon remains precarious.

Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

Turkish Camps Provide Shelter to 90,000 Syrian Refugees

By mid-September, more than 200,000 Syrian refugees had crossed the border into Turkey. UNHCR estimates that half of them are children, and many have seen their homes destroyed in the conflict before fleeing to the border and safety.

The Turkish authorities have responded by building well-organized refugee camps along southern Turkey's border with Syria. These have assisted 120,000 refugees since the crisis conflict erupted in Syria. There are currently 12 camps hosting 90,000 refugees, while four more are under construction. The government has spent approximately US$300 million to date, and it continues to manage the camps and provide food and medical services.

The UN refugee agency has provided the Turkish government with tents, blankets and kitchen sets for distribution to the refugees. UNHCR also provides advice and guidelines, while staff from the organization monitor voluntary repatriation of refugees.

Most of the refugees crossing into Turkey come from areas of northern Syria, including the city of Aleppo. Some initially stayed in schools or other public buildings, but they have since been moved into the camps, where families live in tents or container homes and all basic services are available.

Turkish Camps Provide Shelter to 90,000 Syrian Refugees

The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia: Refugees Onward JourneyPlay video

The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia: Refugees Onward Journey

A transit centre at Vinojug, on FYR Macedonia's border with Greece is where the refugees and migrants pass through on their journey further into Europe. Here UNHCR and partner organisations provide food, water, medical care, psycho-social support and information for refugees who take the train towards the border with Serbia. UNHCR also provides information on how to access the asylum system in the country. In recent weeks, an average of 6,300 refugees pass through the camp every day, yesterday that number grew to 10,000, a record.
Croatia: Sunday Train ArrivalsPlay video

Croatia: Sunday Train Arrivals

On Sunday a train of 1800 refugees and migrants made their way north from the town of Tovarnik on Croatia's Serbian border. They disembarked at Cakovec just south of Slovenia. Most of the people are Syrian, Afghan and Iraqi. Their route to Western Europe has been stalled due to the closing of Hungarian borders. Now the people have changed their path that takes through Slovenia. Croatia granted passage to over 10,000 refugees this weekend. Croatian authorities asked Slovenia to take 5000 refugees and migrants per day. Slovenia agreed to take half that number. More than a thousand of desperate people are being backed up as result, with more expected to arrive later Monday.
Croatia; Destination UnknownPlay video

Croatia; Destination Unknown