THE number of Syrian refugees has passed three million, the
United Nations reported last week, amid reports of "horrifying
conditions" inside the country.
The United Nations's refugee agency UNHCR reported that families
were arriving in a "shocking state". Most had been on the run for a
year or more, fleeing from village to village before escaping
The statement, issued on Friday, said that leaving Syria was
becoming harder: "Many people [are] forced to pay bribes at armed
checkpoints proliferating along the borders. Refugees crossing the
desert into eastern Jordan are being forced to pay smugglers hefty
sums (US$100 a head or more) to take them to safety."
Including the 6.5 million people displaced within Syria, almost
half of the population have been forced to leave their homes. Aid
agencies are warning that the exodus is putting a huge strain on
host countries. There are now 1.4 million refugees in Lebanon,
608,000 in Jordan, and 815,000 in Turkey.
On Monday, the regional communications director for World
Vision's Syrian crisis, Meg Sattler, warned of a "desperate"
"Rather than showing any signs of stopping, the conflict is
getting worse," she said. "The rate of displacement continues to
happen at about 100,000 people per month leaving the country.
Countries like Lebanon and Jordan have been extremely welcoming,
and have continued to open up homes and schools. Now, people have
been there for so long, and people are continuing to come at such
an alarming rate, countries are completely overstretched and need a
lot of assistance."
The latest figures from the UN suggest that the crisis appeal
for Syria is only 40-per-cent funded.
Ms Sattler warned that the situation was compounded by the
displacement of two million people within Iraq, and by the onset of
"Last winter was very cold. . . It becomes more and more
miserable as winter sets in," she said. "We are doing what we can.
We distributed warm winter coats for children, heaters, blankets .
. . but at the end of the day it's not sustainable to do that every
World Vision is working across the region, providing water and
sanitation, cooking sets and food, drainage and roadworks, and
child protection and education services. It is urgently in need of
more funds, Ms Sattler said.
On Friday, the UN high commissioner for refugees, António
Guterres, described the Syrian crisis as "the biggest humanitarian
emergency of our era, yet the world is failing to meet the needs of
refugees and the countries hosting them."
The chief executive of the Refugee Council, Maurice Wren, said:
"Despite all its compassionate words, the UK has resettled just 50
refugees from Syria, and appears content to keep the number low in
the future. That is an affront to our long and proud tradition of
offering protection to those who desperately need it. The
Government must urgently address both the scale of its ambition and
depths of its compassion."
On Wednesday last week, the Independent International Commission
of Inquiry on Syria reported mass atrocities by government forces
and armed groups.
In areas of Syria under ISIS control, "Fridays are regularly
marked by executions, amputations, and lashings in public squares.
Civilians, including children, are urged to watch. Bodies of those
killed are placed on display for several days, terrorising the
local population. Women have been lashed for not abiding by ISIS's
dress code." Children as young as ten are being recruited and
trained at ISIS camps, the report says.
The Syrian government is accused of "indiscriminate firing of
missiles and barrel bombs into civilian-inhabited areas. In some
instances, there is clear evidence that civilian gatherings were
deliberately targeted, constituting massacres." In April and May,
government forces used chemical agents, likely chlorine, in eight
separate incidents in western Syria the report suggests.