Three million Syrian refugees have fled for their lives to neighbouring countries but many remain trapped by the advance of Islamist militants or are having difficulty in reaching open border crossings, the United Nations says.
Syrians desperate to leave their war-engulfed homeland are forced to pay hefty bribes at armed checkpoints proliferating along Syria's borders, or to smugglers, the UN refugee agency said.
The record figure is one million refugees more than a year ago, while a further 6.5 million are displaced within Syria, meaning that "almost half of all Syrians have now been forced to abandon their homes and flee for their lives," it said.
"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," Antonio Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said in a statement.
Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie (inset), who serves as UNHCR special envoy, said in a separate statement: "Three million refugees is not just another statistic. It is a searing indictment of our collective failure to end the war in Syria."
The vast majority of Syrian refugees remain in neighbouring countries.