Syria Civil War Has Created Biggest Refugee Crisis in a Generation

Syrian refugees cross into Turkey from Syria over and through a hole on the border fence in Akcakale, Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey. PH (source: wsj)

The number of Syrians who have fled abroad since the outbreak of the country’s civil war has risen to more than 4 million, the largest number for any single conflict in almost 25 years, the United Nations said Thursday.

The U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, said it reached the figure after Turkey, which has received swaths of refugees from Syria, updated its own statistics.

The agency said in a statement that 7.6 million additional people have been displaced from their homes within Syria.

The Syrian civil war, which began in March 2011, has created a higher number of refugees than any crisis since the Afghan civil war, which erupted in 1992 and caused 4.6 million people to flee.

“This is the biggest refugee population from a single conflict in a generation,” said U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres in a statement. “It is a population that needs the support of the world but is instead living in dire conditions and sinking deeper into poverty.”

The new figures come just 10 months after the agency reported a total of three million Syrian refugees—showing that the number of people fleeing the country is accelerating.

Turkey has borne much of the recent flow. In June alone, according to UNHCR, more than 24,000 people arrived from northern Syria amid fighting between Islamic State group and Kurdish militants.

More than 1.8 million Syrians have sought sanctuary in Turkey, making it the biggest host of refugees in the world, an expensive undertaking that the government in Ankara is bearing mostly out of its own treasury.

The dire situation in the wider Middle East region is pushing hordes of refugees to seek escape in Western Europe, taking increasingly risky paths as European countries resist the flow of migration.

“We cannot afford to let them and the communities hosting them slide further into desperation,” Guterres said.