Thursday 22 February 2018

Two million Syria refugees, says UN

Syrian refugees arrive at the Turkish Cilvegozu gate border (AP)
Syrian refugees arrive at the Turkish Cilvegozu gate border (AP)

Tom Miles

The number of refugees fleeing Syria's violence has passed the two million mark, the United Nations has said, in another tragic sign of a civil war that shows no sign of letting up.

Antonio Guterres, the head of the Office for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said Syria is losing an average of almost 5,000 citizens a day across its border, many of them with little more than the clothes they are wearing.

He said in a statement that nearly 1.8 million of the refugees have fled in the past 12 months alone.

The agency's special envoy, Angelina Jolie, said "some neighbouring countries could be brought to the point of collapse" if the situation keeps deteriorating at its current pace. The Syrian conflict began in March 2011.

The scale of the humanitarian crisis was revealed as Syrian President Bashar Assad warned that a Western military strike in response to chemical weapons attacks could provoke a regional war.

UNHCR special envoy Angelina Jolie said the world is "tragically disunited" on how to end the bloody conflict, which has so far cost more than 100,000 lives, but must do more to help its victims.

"The world risks being dangerously complacent about the Syrian humanitarian disaster," the Hollywood actress said. "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. 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."

Mr Guterres said: "Syria has become the great tragedy of this century - a disgraceful humanitarian calamity with suffering and displacement unparalleled in recent history. The only solace is the humanity shown by the neighbouring countries in welcoming and saving the lives of so many refugees."

More than 97% of Syria's refugees are hosted by countries in the immediate surrounding region which urgently need massive international support to help them deal with the crisis, the agency said. With an average of almost 5,000 Syrians fleeing into neighbouring countries every day, the need to increase significantly humanitarian aid and development support to host communities has reached a critical stage, the agency said.

Press Association

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