Five million refugees: a quarter of Syria’s population fled across the borders

Oxfam and three Syrian organizations are calling on next week's Brussels Conference on Syria to recommit support to Syrians forced to flee, as more than five million Syrians -- or a quarter of the country’s pre-war population -- have crossed the border and registered as refugees in neighboring countries since 2011.

Dr. Abdolsalam Daif, Turkey Country Director for Syria Relief and Development (SRD), said: "Syria, a country rich with history and traditions, is haemorrhaging 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."

While half of the total pre-war population of 22 million have 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. 

Dr. Ahmed Tarakji, Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) President, said: "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 flats 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."

Though Syria’s neighbours 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.

Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam International Executive Director, said: “It is inexcusable that some of the richest countries in the world are turning their backs on Syrians forced to flee from bloodshed. A staggering 5 million Syrians are now refugees - more than the total population of countries such as Ireland or New Zealand.

"The international community seems intent on watching on 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 rich countries to show their support for Syria’s neighbors that have welcomed these refugees and to resettle at least the most vulnerable 10 percent of Syrian refugees by the end of 2017.

Despite all the attempts to seal Syria’s borders, this sad milestone shows how desperate people are to flee the violence and persecution in the country. The international community can’t just pretend everything is ok and start sending people back to danger because it is politically convenient.”

Notes to editors

Organizations such as SAMS and SAWA for Aid and Development (SAID, Sawa Foundation) are providing support to refugees in Syria’s neighboring countries. SAMS organizes medical and surgical missions to the region to provide healthcare to Syrians. They also support psychosocial programmes, such as art and play therapy, treatment of anxiety and speech disorders in children, as well as the psychological wounds of victims of arrest and torture. 

SAID aims to improve the living conditions of refugees in need in Lebanon by providing them with material, logistical and psychological support and helping them become self sustainable and independent. Sawa is present in 16 informal settlements in Lebanon and fully supports 20,000 refugees. 

SRD provides health care, shelter and protection services, food and non-food items, and higher education to people inside Syria. The organization has distributed over 34 million dollars worth of aid to over 2 million Syrians to date.

Contact information

Joelle Bassoul, Oxfam | jbassoul@oxfam.org.uk | +961 71525218

Lobna Hassairi, Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) | lobna.hassairi@sams-usa.net | +1 202 250 9168

Doha Adi, SAWA for Development and Aid (SDAID, Sawa Foundation) | doha.a@sdaid.org | +96176334228

Mais Balkhi, Syria Relief and Development | mbalkhi@syriareliefanddevelopment.org | +1 323 815-0474

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