The Syria Refugee Crisis: Facts, Figures and Stories from the Ground

The Syria Refugee Crisis: Facts, Figures and Stories from the Ground

The Syrian Refugee Crisis: A Decade of Displacement and Despair


Syria has been engulfed in a brutal civil war since 2011, when peaceful protests against the authoritarian regime of Bashar al-Assad were met with violent repression and escalated into a complex conflict involving multiple actors and interests. The war has claimed more than half a million lives, displaced more than half of the population, and caused widespread destruction and suffering.

According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Syria remains the world’s largest refugee crisis, with more than 14 million Syrians forced to flee their homes, including 6.8 million who remain internally displaced inside Syria and 5.5 million who have sought refuge in neighboring countries such as Türkiye, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. Germany is the largest non-neighboring host country with more than 850,000 Syrian refugees. 

Syrian refugees face multiple challenges and risks in their host countries, such as poverty, discrimination, exploitation, violence, lack of access to basic services and legal protection, and uncertainty about their future. Many refugees live in overcrowded and inadequate shelters, such as tents, informal settlements, or rented rooms. Some refugees live in camps, but they are the minority. In Türkiye, for example, only 7 percent of the 3.7 million Syrian refugees live in camps.

The situation of Syrian refugees has been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has increased their vulnerability to health risks, economic hardship, social isolation and mental distress. UNHCR has reported that over 90 percent of Syrians in Lebanon live in extreme poverty, while more than two-thirds of Syrians in Jordan are below the poverty line. Many refugees have lost their livelihoods due to lockdowns and restrictions, and have struggled to afford food, rent, medicine and other essentials. 

In addition to the pandemic, Syrian refugees have also faced other shocks and crises that have threatened their safety and well-being. In August 2020, a massive explosion at the port of Beirut killed more than 200 people and injured thousands more, including many Syrian refugees who lived or worked in the area. The blast also damaged or destroyed thousands of homes and businesses, leaving many refugees homeless or destitute.

In February 2023, two powerful earthquakes struck south-eastern Türkiye and northern Syria, claiming thousands of lives and causing untold destruction to homes and infrastructure across the region. This is a crisis on top of existing crises already impacting internally displaced Syrians and Syrian refugees. In Türkiye, the heavily impacted areas are regions where Syrian refugees live in high numbers. Syrian refugees were already vulnerable, living with protection risks and economic insecurity. For people inside Syria, the earthquake has only brought on more misery and pain and catapulted some of the most in need communities in the country into utter desperation.

The Syrian refugee crisis has also had a devastating impact on children, who make up more than half of the displaced population. More than 2 million Syrian refugee children are out of school and an additional 1.6 million are at risk of dropping out.

Many children have missed years of education due to displacement, poverty, violence or discrimination. Some children have been forced to work or marry early to support their families or protect themselves from harm. Many children have witnessed or experienced trauma and suffer from psychological distress.

UNHCR has been on the ground since the start of the crisis providing shelter, lifesaving supplies, clean water, hot meals and medical care to families who have been forced to flee their homes. During winter, UNHCR also supports vulnerable families with vital winter relief items - such as warm clothes, sleeping bags, thermal blankets, stoves, fuel for heating and insulation for tents - as well as cash assistance to help Syrian refugees pay rent and purchase food and medicine.

As part of the COVID-19 response, UNHCR has provided protective equipment to hospitals and health clinics, distributed medicines and supported the construction of quarantine areas and hygiene facilities. UNHCR has also distributed cash assistance to nearly 800,000 additional Syrian refugees and is working closely with host countries to ensure that refugees, internally displaced and stateless people are included in national responses to the pandemic as well as COVID-19 vaccination programs.

After more than a decade of conflict, Syria’s refugee crisis shows no sign of abating. The humanitarian needs are immense and the resources are stretched too thin. UNHCR calls for more international solidarity and support for the Syrian people and their host communities, as well as for a political solution to end the war and restore peace in Syria.

You can help Syrian refugees by donating to UNHCR or other humanitarian organizations that work on the ground to provide relief and protection to those in need. You can also raise awareness and advocate for the rights and dignity of Syrian refugees in your community and online.

Together, we can make a difference for millions of Syrians who have endured so much and deserve so much better.
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