GENEVA – More than 2 million Syrians have now fled their war-ravaged country, the U.N. refugee agency said Tuesday, lamenting the nearly tenfold increase from a year ago.
“Syria is hemorrhaging women, children and men who cross borders often with little more than the clothes on their backs,” the UNHCR said in a statement, pointing out that on Sept. 3 last year, it had registered just 230,671 Syrian refugees.
In addition to the 2 million Syrians living as refugees, over 4.2 million people have been displaced within the devastated country since the conflict began in March 2011, U.N. figures show.
A staggering 6.2 million Syrians have thus been torn from their homes — a number without parallel in any other country and representing nearly one-third of Syria’s pre-war population of 20.8 million.
“Syria has become the great tragedy of this century,” U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said, describing the situation in the country as “a disgraceful humanitarian calamity with suffering and displacement unparalleled in recent history.”
The only solace, he said, “is the humanity shown by the neighboring countries in welcoming and saving the lives of so many refugees.”
In the past 12 months, almost 1.8 million people have flooded out of Syria, and an average of 5,000 continue to cross into neighboring countries each day, UNHCR said, pointing out that on Aug. 23, the number of Syrian children living as refugees topped 1 million.
The massive influx is placing an overwhelming burden on the host countries, UNHCR warned.
At the end of August, some 716,000 Syrian refugees were registered or in the process of being registered in Lebanon, 515,000 in Jordan, 460,000 in Turkey, 168,000 in Iraq and 110,000 in Egypt, according to the agency’s numbers.
“The tide of human suffering unleashed by the conflict has catastrophic implications,” lamented U.S. film star Angelina Jolie, who is a UNHCR special envoy to Syria. “If the situation continues to deteriorate at this rate, the number of refugees will only grow, and some neighboring countries could be brought to the point of collapse,” she said, cautioning that “the world risks being dangerously complacent about the Syrian humanitarian disaster.”