Number of Syrian refugees tops 2 million mark with more on the way

News Stories, 3 September 2013

© UNHCR/G.Gubaeva
Thousands of Syrians flood across the border into Iraq recently in search of shelter.

GENEVA, September 3 (UNHCR) The number of Syrians forced to seek shelter abroad since civil war began in March 2011 passed the 2 million mark on Tuesday with no sign of the outflow ending soon.

"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," the UN refugee agency said in a statement released to mark the milestone.

"This trend is nothing less than alarming, representing a jump of almost 1.8 million people in 12 months," UNHCR said. One year ago today, the number of Syrians registered as refugees or awaiting registration stood at about 230,670 people.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said Syria had become "a disgraceful humanitarian calamity with suffering and displacement unparalleled in recent history." He added that "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 deal with the crisis.

UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie, meanwhile, 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," she said.

Jolie added that the world was "tragically disunited" on how to end the Syria conflict. "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."

... a disgraceful humanitarian calamity with suffering and displacement unparalleled in recent history.

High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres

With an average of almost 5,000 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 in a bid to accelerate international support.

The 2 million figure represents Syrians who have registered as refugees or who are pending registration. As of the 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 that the number of Syrian child refugees had exceeded 1 million.

A further 4.25 million people are displaced inside Syria, according to data from the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Taken together, these numbers amounting to more than 6 million people mean that more Syrians are now forcibly displaced than people from 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 under-supported, with receipt of only 47 per cent of funds required to meet basic refugee needs.

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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

Displaced inside Syria: UNHCR and its Dedicated Staff help the Needy

The violence inside Syria continues to drive people from their homes, with some seeking shelter elsewhere in their country and others risking the crossing into neighbouring countries. The United Nations estimates that up to 4 million people are in need of help, including some 2 million believed to be internally displaced.

The UN refugee agency has 350 staff working inside Syria. Despite the insecurity, they continue to distribute vital assistance in the cities of Damascus, Aleppo, Al Hassakeh and Homs. Thanks to their work and dedication, more than 350,000 people have received non-food items such as blankets, kitchen sets and mattresses. These are essential items for people who often flee their homes with no more than the clothes on their backs. Cash assistance has been given to more than 10,600 vulnerable Syrian families.

Displaced inside Syria: UNHCR and its Dedicated Staff help the Needy

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