|Syrian boys walk shoulder to shoulder in the rain at the Boynuyogun refugee camp on the Turkish-Syrian border in Hatay province February 8, 2012. REUTERS/Murad Sezer|
Syria's war has contributed to the biggest rise in global refugee numbers since 1994, the year of the Rwandan genocide and the height of conflict in the Balkans, according to the U.N.refugee agency (UNHCR)’s annual report.
By the end of 2012, more than 45.2 million people worldwide were refugees, seeking asylum or displaced in their own country -- and the number increased on average by one every 4.1 seconds.
There are as many refugees who fled Syria since January 1 as the total number of refugees who fled all over the world during 2012, said U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres. This year, the total number of refugees stands at 1.65 million, but UNHCR predicts the number will more than double by the end of this year, reaching 3.45 million.
Syria also has about 4.25 million internally displaced people (IDPs) - people forced from their homes by the spiralling violence who are displaced within Syria itself - a number the United Nations expects to remain constant for the rest of the year.
“IDPs have often been the invisible and forgotten victims of this brutal conflict that has raged since 2011, out of the media spotlight and largely sidelined by the political wrangling between all parties to the conflict and their international backers,” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Adviser.
Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq are shouldering most of the refugee burden, with help from foreign aid donors such as the European Union, Kuwait, the United States and Japan.
There was no alternative strategy to hoping for an end to the fighting or accepting the risk of an explosion in the Middle East, Guterres said. "Either this conflict stops, sooner rather than later, or the humanitarian consequences become out of proportion with anything we have known in the recent past."
Aside from Syria, recent refugee black spots include Mali, Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan, but Guterres said there were signs of hope in Somalia, which is emerging from two decades of war.