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Grim milestone as U.N. says Syria refugees top 2 million mark

Published: Updated:

In another grim milestone measuring Syria’s escalating civil war, the United Nations said on Tuesday the number of Syrian refugees has now surpassed the 2 million mark.

The number is nearly a 10-fold increase from a year ago, the U.N. refugee agency said.

“Syria is hemorrhaging women, children and men who cross borders often with little more than the clothes on their backs,” the UNHCR said in a statement, pointing out that on September 3, 2012, it had registered just 230,671 Syrian refugees.

“Syria has become the great tragedy of this century,” U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said in a statement, describing the situation in the country as “a disgraceful humanitarian calamity with suffering and displacement unparalleled in recent history.”

As well as two million Syrians living as refugees, some 4.25 million people have been displaced within the devastated country since the conflict began in March 2011, according to the U.N..

The agency said that 6.2 million Syrians have been torn from their homes -- a number without parallel in any other country and representing nearly a third of Syria’s pre-war population of 20.8 million.

The only solace, he said, “is the humanity shown by the neighboring countries in welcoming and saving the lives of so many refugees.”

In the past 12 months, almost 1.8 million people have flooded out of Syria, and an average of 5,000 continue to cross into neighboring countries each day, UNHCR said, pointing out that on August 23, the number of Syrian children living as refugees topped one million.

The massive influx is placing an overwhelming burden on the host countries, UNHCR warned.

At the end of August, some 716,000 Syrian refugees were registered or in the process of being registered in Lebanon, 515,000 in Jordan, 460,000 in Turkey, 168,000 in Iraq and 110,000 in Egypt, according to the agency’s numbers.

“The tide of human suffering unleashed by the conflict has catastrophic implications,” said U.S. film star Angelina Jolie, who is a UNHCR special envoy to Syria, in comments reported by AFP news agency.

“If the situation continues to deteriorate at this rate, the number of refugees will only grow, and some neighboring countries could be brought to the point of collapse,” she said, cautioning that “the world risks being dangerously complacent about the Syrian humanitarian disaster.”

(With AFP)