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UN says four million Syrians have fled their country

UN says four million Syrians have fled their country

UNITED NATIONS: The exodus of people from Syria has now become the United Nations refugee agency’s biggest crisis for almost 25 years and risks deteriorating even further as conflict in the country has shown no sign of abating.

In a statement released on Thursday, the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that more than four million Syrians have fled the country since fighting there began in March 2011.

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

In its fifth year now, the Syrian civil war has sent streams of refugees into neighbouring countries such as Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Jordan, burdening those countries’ infrastructure and leading to overcrowded settlements where people struggle to survive amid high unemployment and precarious services.

The latest data available show that Turkey alone is host to over 1.8m registered refugees, with about 259,000 living in 23 camps set up and managed by the government.

The numbers are only expected to grow amid the intensified fighting across Syria, according to the UNHCR. The four million refugee mark comes barely 10 months since the total of three million was reached.

The life for Syrians in exile is becoming increasingly tough, said the UN agency. Some 86 per cent of the refugees outside Jordanian resettlement camps live below the poverty line.

In Lebanon, 55 per cent of the refugees live in shelters considered to be “substandard”.

In a recent report from the ground, the UN children’s fund (Unicef) warned that with the conflict impoverishing millions of households, children had been pushed steadily into the job market and were now being widely employed in harmful working conditions.

“Worsening conditions are driving growing numbers towards Europe and further afield, but the overwhelming majority remains in the region,” Mr Guterres said. “We cannot afford to let them and the communities hosting them slide further into desperation.”

Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2015

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