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Syrian Conflict Drags On

Number of refugees in various countries displaced by the war in Syria. The total number of refugees now exceeds 4 million. Source: UNHCR

Number of refugees in nearby countries displaced by the war in Syria. As of July 2015 the total number of refugees exceeds 4 million. Source: UNHCR

Even though world attention has moved on to other crises, the horrific, destructive conflict in Syria drags on. Earlier this month, the conflict reached an ignominious landmark: According to the U.N., over 4 million refugees have fled the country since fighting began about five years ago.

A report by the U.N. High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) also breaks down where the refugees are currently located. The most are in Turkey and Lebanon, with over a million each. About 629,000 are in Jordan. Even though the Syrian crisis seems to have dropped from most countries’ radars, the situation there has far from improved. Quite the contrary: The UNHCR reports that 1 million of the 4 million refugees have left Syria in the last 10 months.

Looking at the numbers really puts in perspective the concerns of European countries over refugees arriving in countries, such as Italy and Greece, after making a dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean from North Africa. About 68,000 refugees — including many Syrians — reached Greece in the last 6 months. This pales in comparison to the over 1 million refugees crammed into both Lebanon and Turkey.

Resources available to handle the influx of refugees from Syria are woefully inadequate. The UNHCR has estimated it will require $5.5 billion in humanitarian aid this year; it now has 24 percent of that amount. The Commission’s director, António Guterres, announced with the report, “This is the biggest refugee population from a single conflict in a generation.”

The countries receiving refugees from Syria are clearly ill-equipped to handle them. The fact that Syria isn’t receiving significant news coverage now doesn’t mean its problems have gone away. It is truly disturbing that 4 million Syrians have been forced from their country. It is up to the international community to figure out how to get them livable conditions and basic necessities. If not, their situation at will only get worse, resulting in negative ramifications for all involved.



Scott Bleiweis

Scott Bleiweis writes on international relations topics for FPA. He has a M.A. in democracy studies and conflict resolution from the University of Denver, and a B.A. in Politics/International Studies from Brandeis University. Scott was formerly a Fulbright education scholar in Bulgaria (views in this blog are his own, and do not represent those of the Fulbright organization or U.S. government).

Scott supports Winston Churchill's characterization of the complex form of government known as democracy: “Many forms of Government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”