3 Million Syrian Refugees and Counting…

Syruan Refugeesnorthern iraq

Syrian refugees who have arrived with this recent wave of refugees over the last five days fight for clothes and other items being distributed by Kurdish people at the Kawergost camp outside of Erbil, in Northern Iraq, August 20, 2013. Over 30,000 new Syrian refugees have crossed into Northern Iraq in the past five days, as Iraq opened its border to Kurdish civilians fleeing Syrias civil war. Credit Lynsey Addario


The number of refugees from the Syrian civil war has risen above three million, the United Nations refugee agency said Friday, calling the crisis “the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era.”

More than a million people have fled in the last 12 months alone, the refugee agency said, counting only those who registered as refugees. The total number is believed to be significantly higher. Countries surrounding Syria that have borne the brunt of the exodus estimate that several hundred thousand more Syrians have escaped across their frontiers seeking safety.

Lebanon, with a population of less than five million, has taken in more than 1.1 million Syrian refugees, while Jordan has 608,000 and Turkey 815,000, according to the agency, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Tens of thousands more fled to Iraq over the past three years only to face new dangers from the onslaught of Islamic militants based in Syria.

“Almost half of all Syrians have now been forced to abandon their homes and flee for their lives,” the refugee agency said in a statement, noting that another six and a half million Syrians in the country had also been displaced in warfare between the government of President Bashar al-Assad and various rebel forces.

The Syrian crisis has become the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era, yet the world is failing to meet the needs of refugees and the countries hosting them,” António Guterres, the high commissioner for refugees, said in a statement marking the new milestone in the conflict.

His agency’s staff members said they believed the number of refugees would have passed the three-million mark even sooner had not the border with Iraq been closed and the authorities in Turkey and Jordan, fearful for their own nations’ security, taken measures to manage the flow of Syrians.

Moreover, there are “worrying signs,” the refugee agency said, that the already perilous journey to get out of the country through fast-shifting lines of conflict was becoming harder, with fugitives forced to pay off smugglers or guards at checkpoints.

Many of those arriving were first forced to flee from village to village in Syria, said Melissa Fleming, a spokeswoman for the relief agency, pointing to the case of a Syrian woman who said she had moved 20 times before getting to Lebanon.

“These are people who are fleeing as an absolute last resort because they have nothing left; they are absolutely desperate,” Ms. Fleming added. “If they’re not affected by war, they’ve been affected by a collapsed health system or by months and months and months of being afraid.”

A growing number of arrivals came needing treatment for long-term ailments like heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Others also reported soaring costs for even the most basic needs.

With the sharp rise in refugee numbers, the refugee agency said that Syria had become the biggest operation in its 64-year history. That has imposed an acute financial strain on the agency, which has also become involved in a lengthening list of humanitarian emergencies, including civil strife in South Sudan and Central African Republic, and the renewed conflict in Iraq.

Reprint: Syrian Refugees Surpass 3 Million, U.N. Says -By Nick Cumming-Bruce | NYT

Related: The Historic Scale of Syria’s Refugee Crisis | Lynsey Addario, NYT Photographer

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One thought on “3 Million Syrian Refugees and Counting…

  1. I sure didn’t think I start off the weekend crying on a Saturday morning, but you have achieved exactly that. As you needed to. Thank you for putting these faces to the crisis.

    Everyone I have ever met from Syria has been a wonderful, peaceful human being. We need to figure our way out of this phenomenon of trapped innocents starving to death and unwitting pawns burning alive while powerbrokers sit back pulling strings and reaping profits. As if learning nothing from the past century, we move every closer…to World War ONE, again.

    The person I am worrying about most at this hour, however: is you. It is evident that you are immersed in the trend of tragedies. But I would offer that we are learning, are “getting better” and are headed in the right direction. I recall an incident towards the end of my career in the army. We got word that an enormous column of German military vehicles was racing inexplicably towards Moscow–hundreds of trucks with thousands of soldiers. The Cold War had just ended though…or had it?

    The trucks were carrying emergency food supplies and heating oil. Moscow was gripped by its worst winter since World War Two…since the last time a huge column of German vehicles had raced towards Moscow.

    I also took heart that in our most recent conflicts, we had dropped for the most part the dozens of racial epitaphs and stereotypes for “the enemy” that our previous conflicts so fostered…so prevalent in Vietnam, for example. We acknowledge, finally, that the enemy is not subhuman. Select individuals among the enemy are misguided. All are equally human.

    I cry that the Iraqi soldier burned alive in his truck would probably like to have surrendered. But he was trapped, and he will forever be trapped in my heart. I cry that the Syrians who have no greater wish than to experience a safe and peaceful life with their family members intact, are trapped in the no man’s land between belligerents. I want to trap them in the kind of town we take for granted, where food is plentiful and the only trouble to be found is found on the screen of a computer.

    Bless your heart for such accurate, humanist reporting here.

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