UNHCR: Two million Syrians are refugees

Press Releases, 3 September 2013

Today, the number of Syrian refugees passed the threshold of two million, and with no sign of this tragic outflow ending. The war is now well into its third year and Syria is haemorrhaging women, children and men who cross borders often with little more than the clothes on their backs.

This trend is nothing less than alarming, representing a jump of almost 1.8 million people in 12 months. One year ago today, the number of Syrian's registered as refugees or awaiting registration stood at 230,671 people.

"Syria has become the great tragedy of this century a disgraceful humanitarian calamity with suffering and displacement unparalleled in recent history," said António Guterres, the UN's High Commissioner for Refugees. "The only solace is the humanity shown by the neighbouring countries in welcoming and saving the lives of so many refugees."

More than 97 per cent of Syria's refugees are hosted by countries in the immediate surrounding region, placing an overwhelming burden on their infrastructures, economies and societies. They urgently need massive international support to help them deal with the crisis.

Reacting to the milestone, UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie expressed her dismay at the level of death, damage and danger that has forced so many Syrians to run for their lives.

"The world risks being dangerously complacent about the Syrian humanitarian disaster. The tide of human suffering unleashed by the conflict has catastrophic implications. If the situation continues to deteriorate at this rate, the number of refugees will only grow, and some neighbouring countries could be brought to the point of collapse."

"The world is tragically disunited on how to end the Syria conflict, " Ms. Jolie added, "But there should be no disagreement over the need to alleviate human suffering, and no doubt of the world's responsibility to do more. We have to support the millions of innocent people ripped from their homes, and increase the ability of neighbouring countries to cope with the influx."

With an average of almost 5000 Syrians fleeing into neighbouring countries every day, the need to significantly increase humanitarian aid and development support to host communities has reached a critical stage. In view of the pressure the refugee exodus is placing on surrounding countries, including the worsening economic impact, ministers from Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey will meet with UNHCR in Geneva on Wednesday, 4 September, in a bid to accelerate international support.

The number of two million represents Syrians who have registered as refugees or who are pending registration. As of end August this comprised 110,000 in Egypt, 168,000 in Iraq, 515,000 in Jordan, 716,000 in Lebanon, and 460,000 in Turkey. Some 52 per cent of this population are children aged 17 years or below. UNHCR announced only days ago, on 23 August, that the number of Syrian child refugees had exceeded a million.

A further 4.25 million people are displaced inside Syria, according to data as of 27 August from the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Taken together, these numbers amounting to a total of more than six million people torn from their homes mean that more Syrians are now forcibly displaced than is the case with any other country.

UNHCR is active in Syria and is leading the humanitarian response to the refugee crisis in each of the surrounding countries. Humanitarian agencies are worryingly underfunded, with only 47 per cent of funds required to meet basic refugee needs received.

Further information:

Accompanying embargoed video, photos, and info graphics are available for download at: http://unhcr.org/2m/ (Embargo: 03/09/13 0400 GMT).

About UNHCR:

www.unhcr.org @refugees @refugeesmedia

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, also known as the UN refugee agency, was established on December 14, 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. It is mandated to lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. It strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another State, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to resettle in a third country. It also has a mandate to help stateless people. In more than six decades, the agency has helped tens of millions of people restart their lives.

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Cold, Uncomfortable and Hungry in Calais

For years, migrants and asylum-seekers have flocked to the northern French port of Calais in hopes of crossing the short stretch of sea to find work and a better life in England. This hope drives many to endure squalid, miserable conditions in makeshift camps, lack of food and freezing temperatures. Some stay for months waiting for an opportunity to stow away on a vehicle making the ferry crossing.

Many of the town's temporary inhabitants are fleeing persecution or conflict in countries such as Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq, Sudan and Syria. And although these people are entitled to seek asylum in France, the country's lack of accommodation, administrative hurdles and language barrier, compel many to travel on to England where many already have family waiting.

With the arrival of winter, the crisis in Calais intensifies. To help address the problem, French authorities have opened a day centre as well as housing facilities for women and children. UNHCR is concerned with respect to the situation of male migrants who will remain without shelter solutions. Photographer Julien Pebrel recently went to Calais to document their lives in dire sites such as the Vandamme squat and next to the Tioxide factory.

Cold, Uncomfortable and Hungry in Calais

Abdu finds his voice in Germany

When bombs started raining down on Aleppo, Syria, in 2012, the Khawan family had to flee. According to Ahmad, the husband of Najwa and father of their two children, the town was in ruins within 24 hours.

The family fled to Lebanon where they shared a small flat with Ahmad's two brothers and sisters and their children. Ahmad found sporadic work which kept them going, but he knew that in Lebanon his six-year-old son, Abdu, who was born deaf, would have little chance for help.

The family was accepted by Germany's Humanitarian Assistance Programme and resettled into the small central German town of Wächtersbach, near Frankfurt am Main. Nestled in a valley between two mountain ranges and a forest, the village has an idyllic feel.

A year on, Abdu has undergone cochlear implant surgery for the second time. He now sports two new hearing aids which, when worn together, allow him to hear 90 per cent. He has also joined a regular nursery class, where he is learning for the first time to speak - German in school and now Arabic at home. Ahmed is likewise studying German in a nearby village, and in two months he will graduate with a language certificate and start looking for work. He says that he is proud at how quickly Abdu is learning and integrating.

Abdu finds his voice in Germany

A Teenager in Exile

Like fathers and sons everywhere, Fewaz and Malak sometimes struggle to coexist. A new haircut and a sly cigarette are all it takes to raise tensions in the cramped apartment they currently call home. But, despite this, a powerful bond holds them together: refugees from Syria, they have been stranded for almost a year in an impoverished neighbourhood of Athens.

They fled their home with the rest of the family in the summer of 2012, after war threw their previously peaceful life into turmoil. From Turkey, they made several perilous attempts to enter Greece.

Thirteen-year-old Malak was the first to make it through the Evros border crossing. But Fewaz, his wife and their two other children were not so lucky at sea, spending their life savings on treacherous voyages on the Mediterranean only to be turned back by the Greek coastguard.

Finally, on their sixth attempt, the rest of the family crossed over at Evros. While his wife and two children travelled on to Germany, Fewaz headed to Athens to be reunited with Malak.

"When I finally saw my dad in Athens, I was so happy that words can't describe," says Malak. However, the teenager is haunted by the possibility of losing his father again. "I am afraid that if my dad is taken, what will I do without him?"

Until the family can be reunited, Malak and his father are determined to stick together. The boy is learning to get by in Greek. And Fewaz is starting to get used to his son's haircut.

A Teenager in Exile

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