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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Iraqi Children Go To School in Syria

UNHCR aims to help 25,000 refugee children go to school in Syria by providing financial assistance to families and donating school uniforms and supplies.

There are some 1.4 million Iraqi refugees living in Syria, most having fled the extreme sectarian violence sparked by the bombing of the Golden Mosque of Samarra in 2006.

Many Iraqi refugee parents regard education as a top priority, equal in importance to security. While in Iraq, violence and displacement made it difficult for refugee children to attend school with any regularity and many fell behind. Although education is free in Syria, fees associated with uniforms, supplies and transportation make attending school impossible. And far too many refugee children have to work to support their families instead of attending school.

To encourage poor Iraqi families to register their children, UNHCR plans to provide financial assistance to at least 25,000 school-age children, and to provide uniforms, books and school supplies to Iraqi refugees registered with UNHCR. The agency will also advise refugees of their right to send their children to school, and will support NGO programmes for working children.

UNHCR's ninemillion campaign aims to provide a healthy and safe learning environment for nine million refugee children by 2010.

Iraqi Children Go To School in Syria

Iraqi Refugees in Syria: 2,000 New Arrivals Daily

The UN refugee agency is increasingly alarmed over the continuing violence in Iraq and distressed about the lack of an international humanitarian response to deal with the massive numbers of people being displaced. After an assessment mission in November last year, UNHCR officials warned that the agency was facing an even larger humanitarian crisis than it had prepared for in 2002-03. But UNHCR and other organisations are sorely lacking in funds to cope with the growing numbers of displaced.

In an effort to fill the massive gap in funding, UNHCR in January 2007 launched a US$60 million appeal to cover its protection and assistance programmes for Iraqi refugees in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Turkey, as well as non Iraqi refugees and internally displaced people within strife torn Iraq.

The longer the Iraq conflict goes on, the more difficult it will become for the hundreds of thousands of displaced and the communities that are trying to help them – both inside and outside Iraq. Because the burden on host communities and governments in the region is enormous, it is essential that the international community support humanitarian efforts.

Posted on 5 February 2007

Iraqi Refugees in Syria: 2,000 New Arrivals Daily

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

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