Syria Refugee Crisis Explained

Map of SyriaMore than 6.6 million Syrians have been forced to flee their country since 2011 and another 6.7 million have been driven from their homes but remain trapped inside the country. The vast majority of Syrian refugees have found safety in neighboring countries like Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon – Turkey alone hosts more than 3.5 million Syrians.

Here's What You Need to Know:


1. When did the Syrian refugee crisis begin?

2. What is happening in Syria  specifically in Idlib – right now?

3. Where do Syrian refugees live? Do all Syrian refugees live in refugee camps?

4. What are Syrians greatest needs?

5. What is the UN Refugee Agency doing for displaced Syrians?

When did the Syrian refugee crisis begin?

The Syrian refugee crisis is the result of a March 2011 violent government crackdown on public demonstrations in support of a group of teenagers who were arrested for anti-government graffiti in the southern town of Daraa. As violence increased, families began to flee. Within two months, the first refugee camps opened in Turkey – by March 2013, more than 1 million people had fled Syria. Today, 12 million Syrians are displaced from their homes and more than a million Syrian children have been born in exile.

three Syrian children

What is happening in Syria – specifically in Idlib – right now?

The recent outbreak violence in Idlib, northwest Syria, is forcing families to flee their homes at an alarming rate. Approximately 900,000 people have been uprooted from their homes since December 2019, with an increase in mid-February of more than 100,000 people in less than a week. The majority – about 80 percent – of those who are fleeing Idlib and the surrounding areas are women and children. Resources are scarce, camps and settlements are becoming overcrowded and many are being forced to sleep outside in freezing temperatures.

Syrians fleeing Idlib

Where do Syrian refugees live? Do all Syrian refugees live in refugee camps?      

93.7 percent of the 6.7 million Syrian refugees who have fled to neighboring countries live in urban settings, not refugee camps. The vast majority of Syrian refugees live in host communities in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. However, living outside of refugee camps does not necessarily mean success or stability for Syrian refugees. Over 60 percent of Syrian refugees live in poverty, while unemployment and uneven access to education and other basic services persist.

Syrian refugee looking out over a refugee camp in Iraq

What are Syrians greatest needs?

The outbreak of COVID-19 has exacerbated the protection needs of Syrians. Millions of displaced people have lost their jobs, and the economic impact of COVID-19 is making it difficult for them to find income and access basic supplies, like food, medicine and clean water. For those living in refugee camps or camp-like situations, they also face an increased risk of infection. Refugee camps are crowded and resources are scarce, making it difficult to practice public health measures like frequent handwashing and physical distancing. 

Syrian refugee girl carrying supplies

What is the UN Refugee Agency doing for displaced Syrians?

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has been on the ground since the start of the conflict – assisting the millions who have fled to other countries or been displaced inside Syria. Despite difficult and often dangerous conditions, UNHCR continues to work tirelessly to provide life-saving supplies, safe shelter, clean water, hot meals, medical care and other assistance to families who have been forced to flee their homes. In recent months, UNHCR has also delivered warm clothes, thermal blankets, stoves and other winter essentials to protect Syrian refugees as temperatures drop during the winter.

Help protect Syrian refugees...

Monthly giving is the most convenient, effective and efficient way you can help people fleeing conflict. Start making a lifesaving difference today. Please become USA for UNHCR’s newest monthly donor.

Jun 30 2020
TOPICS Syria Crisis 101
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