Number of Syrian refugees passes 2 million mark: UN
By Nina Larson, AFPGENEVA--Syria's refugee crisis is one of the biggest tragedies of our times, the U.N. said on Tuesday, with more than 2 million Syrians, half of them children, fleeing their war-ravaged country and some 4.2 million displaced internally.
September 4, 2013, 2:20 am TWN
“There are no words to express ... this tragedy,” Antonio Guterres, the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, told reporters in Geneva, adding that the exodus shows no sign of abating and risked destabilizing the region.
He said the 2-million milestone — which represents a nine-fold increase in 12 months — was not just an appalling statistic, but represents “2 million individual stories. Two million people, many have lost their houses, members of their families, their possessions.”
On average, some 5,000 Syrians flee their country every day, the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said.
Guterres said the majority of the refugees head to Lebanon and other neighboring countries where concern is mounting of a spillover of the Syria conflict.
Guterres said with the number of displaced continuing to escalate, the Syria refugee crisis today is without parallel worldwide.
“At this particular moment it's the highest number of displaced people anywhere in the world,” he said. “Syria has become the great tragedy of this century, a disgraceful humanitarian calamity with suffering and displacement unparalleled in recent history.”
He said while the first 1 million refugees were registered over a period of two years, the second million had fled in the past six months. By Tuesday, more than 720,000 Syrian refugees were registered or in the process of being registered in Lebanon, a country of some 4.5 million people, Guterres said.
“For a country like Lebanon, this is indeed an existential question,” he said.
An additional 515,000 refugees are in Jordan, 460,000 in Turkey, 168,000 in Iraq and 110,000 in Egypt, according to U.N. figures.
“The risks of an explosion in the Middle East is growing by the day,” Guterres warned.
Turkey has spent more than US$1.5 billion on direct assistance to refugees — only 10 percent of which had been covered by international funds, Guterres said.
The United States is by far the biggest donor of humanitarian aid for the Syrian crisis, having already contributed nearly US$230 million, according to the UNHCR.
Russia has contributed about US$10 million and China US$1.0 million, Guterres said.