Five Million Syrian Refugees: a quarter of Syria’s population fled across the borders

By Oxfam

A number equivalent of more than the twice the total population of Chicago or the entire state of South Carolina

Today the UN confirmed what the international community long-feared, that the conflict in Syria has now forced more than five million Syrians -- or a quarter of the country’s pre-war population – to flee their country. As more Syrians are displaced, the United States must stand by its commitment to be a nation welcoming of the world’s most vulnerable refugees, particularly Syrians. Today’s grim announcement comes just hours after a federal judge in Hawaii extended the restraining order on implementation of President Trump’s discriminatory Executive Order. While this ruling provides temporary relief to Syrian refuges coming to the US, it is not a permanent solution. It also comes as Congress debates a new budget with historic and devastating cuts to the foreign aid program. Oxfam calls on the United States to uphold its responsibility to support Syrian refugees in the region and allow the most vulnerable to find safety here in the US.

“It is inexcusable that the United States would turn its backs on Syrians forced to flee from bloodshed. A staggering 5 million Syrians are now refugees - more than the twice the total population of Chicago or the equivalent of the entire state of South Carolina.

"The current US Administration and the international community seems intent on standing by as millions of people are stuck between the rock that their country has become and the hard place that exile offers them. Oxfam calls on the US to immediately reverse policies that slam the door on the most vulnerable Syrians who are forced to flee," said Noah Gottschalk, Oxfam America Senior Humanitarian Policy Advisor.

“Despite increasing attempts by Syrian’s neighbors to keep refugees out, this sad milestone shows how desperate people are to flee the violence and persecution in their country. The international community can’t just pretend everything is ok and start sending people back to danger because it is politically convenient,” added Gottschalk.

While half of the total pre-war population of 22 million has had to flee their homes, a quarter has crossed into Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, and Iraq, in an attempt to look for safety. When broken down, that is an average of 2,500 people crossing the border every day for the past five years.

Though Syria’s neighbors have further restricted their borders since 2015, the relentless fighting and dim hopes of peace continue to force Syrians out of their war-torn country, either by being smuggled into Lebanon at the risk of their own lives, or living in limbo in makeshift camps at the Turkey and Jordan borders with little to no humanitarian aid available.

“When people talk about refugees, they imagine UN run camps. The reality is only 10 percent of Syrian refugees live in camps. The overwhelming majority are in informal settlements established on agricultural land in Lebanon, in cramped apartments in Jordan, and in housing with basic necessities in Turkey. They need jobs, education and healthcare. They need to be able to access services and markets, to contribute to the communities hosting them, and not strain overstretched societies. This can only happen if we all -- donors, local authorities, national and international humanitarian agencies -- step up our joint efforts,” said Dr. Ahmed Tarakji, Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) President.

Not only has the new Administration sought to close borders to Syrian refugees, but it has also proposed  historic and devastating cuts to the foreign aid program. Foreign aid represents a fraction of the US budget – just 1% - yet provides a critical life-line to tens of millions of women, men, and children around the world, including Syrians. It is an essential tool in the struggle to counter the violent extremism that Mr. Trump says he wants to fight. Oxfam estimates that these cuts in international assistance could deprive more than a million Syrian refugees, and host communities in Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey, and Egypt, of immediate life-saving shelter, clean water, health services and gender-based violence support. It would also mean abandoning millions hungry people in their greatest hour of need.

‘Syria, a country rich with history and traditions, is hemorrhaging its population, its medical workers, engineers, teachers, farmers. If the world doesn’t act immediately to pressure warring parties to stop the bloodshed, protect civilians, and give Syrians a chance to return home and rebuild their lives in a country at peace, we will have lost all our humanity,’ said Dr. Abdolsalam Daif, Turkey Country Director for Syria Relief and Development (SRD).

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