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Refugees of the Syrian Civil War

More than four million refugees of the Syrian Civil War have left the country during the course of the war. Most of them fled to neighboring Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq, while thousands also ended up in more distant countries of the Caucasus, the Persian Gulf, North Africa and Europe. As of February 2015, Turkey has become the world’s biggest refugee hosting country with 2.1 million Syrian refugees and had spent more than US$6 billion on direct assistance to refugees.
The refugee crisis began in 2011, when thousands of Syrian citizens fled across the border to neighboring Turkey and Lebanon. By early July 2011, 15,000 Syrian citizens had taken shelter in tent cities, set up in the Yayladağı, Reyhanlı and Altınözü districts of Hatay Province, near Turkey’s border with Syria. By the end of that month, 5,000 of the refugees had returned to Syria. However, by late June 2011, the number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon had reached around 10,000 people. By mid-July 2011, the first Syrian refugees found sanctuary in Jordan, with their numbers reaching 1,500 by December.
On 21 September the European Union approved a plan committing itself to taking in 120,000 refugees.



The Arab Spring uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya inspired the Syrian people to take to the streets in peaceful demonstration against the Assad regime’s lack of political progress and extreme responses to anti-government graffiti. The government responded fiercely, torturing, killing, and shooting at the protesters. The situation escalated to a civil war. Syria is now divided into territory occupied by the regime, rebel fighters, and Islamic extremists. The war is still raging today.

By 3 May 2011, the number of Syrians crossing the Turkish border was estimated at just 300 people. Turkish President, Abdullah Gül, said that Turkey had prepared for “a worst-case scenario”, in an apparent reference to a possible influx of large numbers of refugees from Syria. He also referred to the fact that Turkey had already set up a small camp in southern Hatay Province for 263 Syrians who had fled their country on 29 April.

By mid May, some 700 of Tel Kalakh residents had fled across the border, to the northern Lebanese village of Mkaybleh. According to Sheikh Abdullah, a prominent religious figure in the village of Wadi Khaled in northern Lebanon, by mid May the village had received more than 1,350 refugees from Syria over a period of 10 days, most of them women and children. More were expected to arrive.

On 14 May 2011, Melissa Fleming, spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said that the refugee flow into Lebanon had been fairly small at around 1,000 people. She also said the number of Syrians who had crossed the border into Turkey was also small at about 250.

With the siege of Jisr al-Shughour, the situation on the Turkish-Syrian border deteriorated, as Jisr al-Shughour, home to 41,000 people, became largely an abandoned town, in expectation of a Syrian Army attack. Initially The Guardian reported that officials in southern Turkey said that about 2,500 Syrians, many from Jisr al-Shughour, had crossed the border. However, the number of refugees, housed in refugee camps across the Turkish-Syrian border exceeded 10,000 people by mid June according to other sources.

By mid June, the number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon was estimated by human rights associations at 8,500, with the main concentrations in the Akkar and Tripoli areas, and the total number of Syrian refugees in all surrounding countries surpassing more than 20,000 people. As Syrian troops amassed by the Turkish border, the flow rate further increased by hundreds of refugees a day by 23 June, reaching a total of 11,700 Syrian citizens, housed in refugee camps across the Turkish border.

According to official numbers by early 15 July 228 Syrians had sought refuge in Turkey, as a result of tension caused by the Syrian Civil War and a crackdown on protests by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s administration. More than 5,000 of them had returned on their own to Syria, therefore leaving around 10,227 Syrian refugees in Turkey.

The number of registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon reached 2,600 by the end of August, with thousands more residing in Lebanon illegally. According to UNHCR, some 120 Syrian refugees crossed into Lebanon on 29 August. According to Al-Arabiya, some 2,500 Syrians resided in the Wadi Khaled area, down from 5,500 Syrians who were there in May. Most of the Syrian refugees in the area were Arabs and Bedouins. A humanitarian aid campaign was launched by “Baitulmaal” nicknamed the “Syrian Refugee Relief”.

By September, the estimates for Syrian refugees in Lebanon rose to around 4,000 registered, with possibly as many as 6,000 in total residing there. Despite the return of many Syrians back to Syria between July and August, in early September Turkey began setting up six refugee camps for Syrian refugees, who fled from Syria in June – some 6,000 out of initial 15,000 remained in Turkey.

In November, it was reported that the number of Syrian refugees in Turkey stood at 7,600.

In December, the number of registered Syrian refugees had reached almost 5,000 in Lebanon. By mid-December, the number of Syrian refugees in Jordan was around 1,500 registered and possibly thousands more unregistered. By the end of 2011, it was reported that thousands of Syrian refugees had found shelter in Libya.

On 14 January 2012, UNHCR announced that the number of registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon had reached 5,238. There were almost 1,000 families registered as refugees. Some 200 Syrians registered within a single week prior to the announcement. By late January, 6,375 registered Syrian refugees were reported in Lebanon.

Also in January, Israeli Chief of Staff announced preparations by the Israeli Army for Alawite Syrian refugees in the occupied Golan Heights, in case the Syrian government was going to collapse.

In early February 2012, Jordan announced it would open a refugee camp in the country for Syrian refugees fleeing the escalating violence in Syria. There were an estimated 3,000 registered Syrian refugees in Jordan. The number of Syrian refugees in Turkey was around 9,700.

Following the February fighting in Homs and the escalating assault of Syrian troops on towns and villages near the Lebanese border in early March, a large influx of refugees into Lebanon was reported on 4 March 2012. The exact number of newly displaced Syrian refugees was not clear but was estimated around 2,000.

Turkey also reported an increased refugee flow of hundreds of people per day in mid March. With the fresh influx, the number of UN registered Syrian refugees in Turkey’s Hatay Province reached 13,000 to 13,500, with possibly thousands more residing in other provinces. Turkish officials near the Syrian border expected tens of thousands, perhaps as many as 50,000 new arrivals in late March and began constructing tent cities in the southern provinces of Hatay, Kilis, Gaziantep and Şanlıurfa. By 18 March, the number of refugees in Turkey was reported at 14,700.

In Jordan, as many as 80,000 Syrians were reported to have arrived, relocating mostly to the area of Ramtha and the northern city of Mafraq, according to Jordanian government spokesman Rakan Majali. Rakan Majali also reported that a 30,000 square meter refugee camp was under construction in Jordan to host the influx of refugees.The UN refugee agency estimated the number of registered Syrian refugees in Jordan between 5,000 and 8,000 and that Jordan had accepted around 5,000 Syrian students in state schools.

The number of Syrian refugees in the Kurdish region of Iraq reached around 1,000 by 24 March. Almost 1,000 asylum seekers, including 60 families and Syrian army defectors fled from Syria to Iraqi Kurdistan, according to the Iraqi Kurdistan Region’s Immigration Office. Kurdish refugees are offered shelter and medical care in Domiz camp. Men are given the alternative of military training in a nearby camp, with the intention of protecting Kurdish-majority territories in Syria.

During the April 2012 offensive by the Syrian Army, which preceded the expected ceasefire on 10 April of the Kofi Annan peace plan, the flow of refugees to Turkey reached its peak, with as many as 2,300 refugees on 4 April and 2,800 refugees on 5 April being displaced into Turkey’s border areas. The number of Syrian refugees in Turkey reached 23,835 by 6 April, and about 25,000 by 10 April, when Kofi Annan visited the refugee camps in Turkey. In Ankara, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu demanded Assad keep his promise to cease military operations, while demanding action by the international community and the UN, if more refugees came.

There were 8,594 Syrian refugees reported to have reached Lebanon, with most of them in the Bekaa Valley. The number of Syrian nationals in Jordan was estimated at 90,000. 100,000. The total official UN number of registered refugees reached 42,000 by April, while unofficial estimates stood at as many as 130,000. Aljazeera network estimated the number of Syrian refugees at 50–60,000.

On 10 April, it was reported that the number of Syrian refugees in Syria’s four neighboring countries jumped by 40 percent within the past few weeks and stood at about 55,000 registered refugees, almost half of whom were under 18 years old, according to U.N. figures. There were also estimated to be at least 20,000 refugees who were not registered at the time, as well as 200,000 or more Syrians who were internally displaced inside Syria.

In May, 3,171 Syrian nationals of Kurdish origin registered with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in the Kurdistan Region, according to a UNHCR statement. An estimated 10 to 15 families and 50 to 65 individuals continued to enter Duhok governorate daily.

In May 2012, the UNHCR in Bogotá announced that Syrian refugees have been given political asylum in Colombia and was working closely with the Colombian NGO, Pastoral Social, to help the refugees assimilate with the language and find jobs.

By the beginning of June, more than 4,000 Syrian Kurds had crossed the border into the Kurdish region of Iraq, as violence in Syria continued. The large number of Syrian refugees in Jordan, estimated at 120,000, was reported to have caused a burden on Jordan’s limited water resources. The majority of Syrian refugees in Jordan were concentrated in the northern cities of Mafraq, Irbid, Ramtha, Jerash and Ajlun. In Lebanon, it was reported that the number of UNHCR registered Syrian refugees reached 17,000, while a total of about 26,000 registered and unregistered refugees were believed to be settled throughout the country. Most of the refugees were reported to be women and children. By the beginning of June, Turkey reported an influx of about 400 additional Syrian refugees, bringing the total number of registered refugees in Turkey to 24,500.

According to Lebanese sources, nearly 19,000 Syrians had fled the Syrian capital into Lebanon between 18 and 20 July, as violence inside the city continued to escalate. The United Nations refugee agency registered roughly 35,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan, but there were reported to be far more Syrian refugees along its borders, upward of 140,000 people. The total number of registered refugees throughout the region was reported by the UNHCR at 112,000 on 17 July 2012.

In the Iraqi Kurdish region more than 6,500 refugees were registered and over 1,400 were awaiting registration. The total number of registered Syrians in Lebanon had reached around 28,100 refugees by 17 July, with a further 2,000 Syrians receiving assistance while waiting for registration. In Turkey, it was reported that the number of registered refugees reached more than 43,000 by 21 July, although nearly 1,000 returned to Syria because of poor conditions at the provisional refugee camps.

On 9 August, a boat of refugees, including 124 first Syrian refugees arrived in Italy. By mid August, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that the number of registered Syrian refugees had reached over 200,000, exceeding the UNHCR estimate of 185,000 for the entire year.

The number of Syrian refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan swelled to 35,000 by late October 2012.

According to UNHCR data, the total number of Syrian refugees reached more than 408,000 registered in December 2012, mostly residing in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq (including Iraqi Kurdistan). The number of Syrian refugees in Turkey reached 135,519 registered; 8,852 in Iraq proper and additional 54,000 in Iraqi Kurdistan; 109,081 registered in Lebanon, with 41,712 people awaiting registration; 100,368 registered in Jordan, with 41,524 Syrians awaiting registration. There are also 12,915 people registered in Egypt as of 30 December 2012, and about at least 150,000 residing in the country.


There were increased fears of the exploitation of women refugees.

Orthodox Christian refugees from Syria began to arrive in the United States, according to the website of the Antiochian Archdiocese.

In August, Bulgaria started to experience an enormous influx of illegal Syrian refugees. Bulgaria asked the European Union and Red Cross for aid in handling an increase in Syrian refugees. Bulgaria, which shares a border with Turkey, may have to provide shelter for as many as 10,000 Syrians by year end. Bulgarian refugee centers are full and the government is looking for additional locations to accommodate a rise in people illegally crossing the border with Turkey.

In August, the United Nations confirmed that groups of thousands of Syrian refugees left their country into Iraqi Kurdistan.

In September, Italy also experienced increases in Syrian refugees. The majority Syrian refugees have come from Egypt, although some started their journeys from Turkey. UNHCR estimates that more than 4,600 Syrians have arrived in Italy by sea since the beginning of 2013. About two-thirds of these arrived in August.

In September, Swedish migration authorities ruled that all Syrian asylum seekers will be granted permanent residency in light of the worsening conflict in Syria. Sweden is the first EU-country to make this offer. The decision means that the roughly 8,000 Syrians who have temporary residency in Sweden will now be able to stay in the country permanently. They will also have the right to bring their families to Sweden. While Malek Laesker, vice-chair of the Syrian Arabian Cultural Association of Sweden, welcomed the decision, he also warned it could create problems. “The fact that Sweden is the first country to open its arms is both positive and negative,” he told the TT news agency, explaining that it may be a boon for the growing people-smuggling market.

In September, the countries in South America (mainly Argentina and Brazil) decided to offer refuge to thousands of displaced Syrians. More than three hundred Syrian refugee families have already arrived in Argentina. Moreover, Brazil is the first country in the Americas region to offer humanitarian visas to Syrian refugees. Brazil’s embassies in (Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq) countries neighboring Syria will be responsible for issuing travel visas for people wanting to go there. Claims for asylum will need to be presented on arrival in Brazil. These special humanitarian visas will also be provided to family members living in countries neighboring Syria.

The Syrian Civil developed into a proxy war, under the power of President Bashar al-Assad, leading to 100,000 civilians dead and over 1.5 million Syrian refugees displaced throughout the Middle East.


By the end of August 2014, the UN estimated 6.5 million people had been displaced within Syria, while more than 3 million refugees had fled to countries such as Lebanon (1.14 million), Jordan (608,000) and Turkey (815,000). Another 35,000 refugees were awaiting registration, while estimates of several hundred thousand more were not included in official figures as they were unregistered. “The Syria crisis has become the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era, yet the world is failing to meet the needs of refugees and the countries hosting them,” the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said at the time.[166]

Turkey’s Killis camp was featured in a 13 Feb article in the New York Times titled How to Build a Perfect Refugee Camp. It is run by Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency, or AFAD, and staffed by Turkish government employees, rather than by NGOs. It is hoped that the 14,000 refugees benefiting from the clean, well organized facility will eventually “go home and become grand ambassadors of Turkey.”

The UN high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR) reported in 2014 that the total number of refugees worldwide exceeded 50 million for the first time since World War II. The recent increases were largely due to the Syrian civil war. In September the Muslim Scholars Committee condemned human rights abuses after military raids on Syrian refugee camps in Arsal. The statement said ‘the collective punishment of Syrian refugees cannot be justified,” and called for a ‘transparent and impartial investigation of the violations, from the burning of camps to the torturing of detainees in Arsal’. The Army had been conducting wide raids on Syrian refugee sites in Arsal. The Lebanese army said it opened fire on 3 individuals on a motorcycle who attempted to burn another nearby tented settlement.

1 million refugees were registered by the UNHCR during 2014, most of these refugees headed to Turkey due to the instability in north eastern Syria caused by ISIS, and Lebanon received and increasing number of Economic Refugees, Jordan comparatively received much fewer refugees due to the relative stability in Southern Syria in 2014 compared to 2013.

As of October 2014, Uruguay is receiving an immigration flow of Syrian refugees.


On 9 July 2015, the UNHCR reported that the number of Syrian refugees has surged to over 4,000,000 people, mostly residing in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.

During the first half of 2015, large numbers of Syrian refugees crossed into European Union member states, reaching 313,000 UNHCR applications across Europe by early August 2015. The largest numbers were recorded in Germany with over 89,000 and Sweden with over 62,000 in early August.

More than 100,000 refugees crossed the European Union’s borders in July alone. Syrians formed the largest group of refugees to Europe. As of September 2015, it was reported that more than 8,000 refugees crossed into Europe on a daily basis. 5,000 of those refugees were received by Greece alone, the majority of whom came from Iraq or Syria.

According to The Times, “Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, is to table a plan to relocate 160,000 asylum seekers from Hungary, Italy and Greece across the European Union. The proposal will include binding quotas to impose more than 55,000 refugees on countries opposed to his scheme.”

The BBC reported that “despite their proximity to Syria, no Syrians claiming asylum have been taken in by Saudi Arabia or other wealthy Gulf countries.”The BBC also reported that “most successful cases are Syrians already in Gulf states extending their stays, or those entering because they have family there.”There are conflicting reports of Saudi Arabia’s version. According to the The Guardian, “Saudi Arabia has said reports about its response to the Syrian refugee crisis are “false and misleading” and it has in fact given residency to 100,000 people as war rages in their country. No Gulf country has signed the UN Convention on Refugees, which sets standards for the treatment and rights of those fleeing to a new country.” According to the UNHCR’s representative for the Gulf region, there are 500,000 Syrians in Saudi Arabia, but in “official documentation they are referred to as “Arab brothers and sisters in distress”” and not as Syrian nationals. While Al Jazeera and Arab News, on 12 September 2015, reported that Saudi Foreign ministry official says nation has received nearly 2.5 million Syrians since 2011. Though there were no evidence to authenticate this statement or prove it.

On 21 September, 2015 23 European Union home affairs and interior ministers of the 28-member nations approved a plan without a consensus, compelling “member countries to take in 120,000 migrants seeking refuge on the Continent.” Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia opposed the plan and Finland abstained. Poorer countries like Hungary and Slovakia are concerned about the economic and social cost of absorbing large numbers of refugees. Wealthier countries like Germany and Sweden embrace ethnic diversity and are able to offer more humanitarian assistance.

The UN’s human rights chief said the Czech Republic was holding migrants in “degrading” and jail like conditions for up to 90 days on 22 October 2015.

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