Syrians set to become world's largest refugee population

by Emma Batha | @emmabatha | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 18 December 2013 13:09 GMT

Syrian refugees from the town of Qara huddle round a fire to keep warm in a refugee camp at the Lebanese border town of Arsal, in eastern Bekaa Valley, after heavy snow. Photo December 12, 2013, REUTERS/Alia Haju

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LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Syrians will become the world’s largest refugee population in about three months if current trends continue, U.N. figures show.

More than 2.3 million Syrians have already fled the civil war in their homeland but, with 100,000 new refugees registering every month, Syria will soon outstrip Afghanistan as the biggest source of refugees.

The Afghan refugee population, the world's largest for more than 30 years, has fallen from a peak of more than 6 million in the 1990s to around 2.58 million now.

“The conflict in Syria shows no signs of abating and with current trends continuing it’s very likely that Syrians will become the largest refugee group in the world in a matter of months,” a U.N. source told Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The Syrian refugee population has trebled in the last year, overtaking those from Somalia and Iraq. Most Syrian refugees have gone to Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt, which are struggling to cope with the huge influx.

The United Nations appealed for $6.5 billion this week to tackle the humanitarian crisis inside Syria and support neighbouring countries hosting Syrian refugees - the biggest amount ever requested for a single humanitarian emergency.

U.N. refugee chief Antonio Guterres said at the appeal launch on Monday that there could be 4.12 million Syrian refugees by the end of 2014. “We are facing what I really consider the most dangerous crisis for global peace and security since the Second World War,” he added.

Addressing the humanitarian needs in both Syria and surrounding countries caring for refugees would minimise the risks, he said, as he called for countries to keep their borders open and urged Europe to step up efforts to share the burden.

Last week Amnesty International said European leaders should “hang their heads in shame” after they offered to take in just 12,340 Syrian refugees. Thousands of Syrians have undertaken dangerous sea journeys to reach Europe, and some have died when their boats, usually poorly equipped vessels provided by middlemen, sank.

“There is something fundamentally wrong when a Syrian family with women and children that has fled this dramatic conflict in Syria needs to take a boat with high risk of drowning to get to Europe,” Guterres said.

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