UN says Syria refugees top 3 million mark
Geneva - The civil war in Syria has forced a record 3 million people out of the country as more than a million people fled in the past year alone and the increasingly complex and bloody conflict has shown no sign of letting up, the UN refugee agency said on Friday.
The tragic milestone means that about one of every eight Syrians is now fleeing across the border, and 6.5 million others have been displaced with the country's borders, the Geneva-based agency, which also noted that over half of all those uprooted are children.
"The Syria crisis has become the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era, yet the world is failing to meet the needs of refugees and the countries hosting them," said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres.
Half the country forced to flee
Almost half of all Syrians have been forced to abandon their homes and flee for their lives since the conflict began in March 2011. Syria had a pre-war population of 23 million.
The massive numbers of Syrians fleeing the civil war also has stretched the resources of neighbouring countries and raised fears of violence spreading in the region.
The UN estimates there are nearly 35 000 more awaiting registration as refugees, and hundreds of thousands who are not registered.
The refugee agency and other aid groups say an increasing number of families are arriving in other countries in shockingly poor condition, exhausted and scared and with almost no financial savings left after having been on the run for a year or more.
In eastern Jordan, for example, the agency says refugees crossing the desert are forced to pay smugglers $100 per person or more to be taken to safety.
Lebanon hosts 1.14 million Syrian refugees, the single highest concentration of them, but Turkey has 81 000 and Jordan has 608 000.
The agency says regional governments estimate hundreds of thousands more Syrians are seeking sanctuary in their borders without registering as refugees.