TRIPOLI, Lebanon: A 19-year-old mother of two registered yesterday as the millionth refugee to flee Syria, part of an accelerating exodus that is piling pressure on neighbouring host countries.
Wearing a green headscarf and holding her young daughter, Bushra smiled nervously as she waited at Lebanon’s main registration centre in the northern city of Tripoli, which processes 800 Syrians a day.
“The situation is very bad for us. We can’t find work,” she said. “I live with 20 people in one room. We can’t find any other house as it is too expensive. We want to return to Syria. We wish for the crisis to be resolved.”
Syrians started trickling out of the country nearly two years ago when President Bashar Al Assad’s forces shot at pro-democracy protests inspired by Arab revolts elsewhere. The uprising has since turned into an increasingly sectarian struggle between armed rebels and government soldiers and militias. An estimated 70,000 people have been killed.
Around half the refugees are children, most of them aged under 11, and the numbers leaving are mounting every week, the United Nations refugee agency said in a statement. “With a million people in flight, millions more displaced internally, and thousands of people continuing to cross the border every day, Syria is spiralling towards full-scale disaster,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said in a statement.
“We are doing everything we can to help, but the international humanitarian response capacity is dangerously stretched. This tragedy has to be stopped.”
In addition to the refugees, more than two million of Syria’s 22 million people have been internally displaced and more than four million need humanitarian assistance, UNHCR says. UNHCR said the number of Syrians quitting their country has increased dramatically since the beginning of the year with more than 400,000 — nearly half the total — leaving since January 1.
Most have fled to Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt and some to North Africa and Europe, arriving traumatised, without possessions and having lost relatives, it said. Syria’s smallest neighbour Lebanon, whose population is only four million, hosts the highest number of refugees, with arrivals doubling to 4,400 a day in the past three weeks, said UNHCR representative in Lebanon, Ninette Kelley. Reuters