U.N. says Syria refugees top 3 million mark

The tragic milestone means that about one of every eight Syrians is now fleeing across the border

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More than three million Syrians have fled the civil war ravaging their country to become refugees, mounting to one million of them in the past year alone, the United Nations said Friday.

“Syria’s intensifying refugee crisis will today surpass a record three million people,” Agence France-Presse quoted the U.N.’s refugee agency said in a statement, adding that the number did not include hundreds of thousands more who have fled without registering as refugees.

The tragic milestone means that about one of every eight Syrians is now fleeing across the border, and 6.5 million others have been displaced with the country’s borders, the Geneva-based agency, which also noted that over half of all those uprooted are children.

“The Syria crisis has become the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era, yet the world is failing to meet the needs of refugees and the countries hosting them,” the Associated Press quoted the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres as saying.

Almost half of all Syrians have been forced to abandon their homes and flee for their lives since the conflict began in March 2011. Syria had a prewar population of 23 million.

The massive numbers of Syrians fleeing the civil war also has stretched the resources of neighboring countries and raised fears of violence spreading in the region.

The U.N. estimates there are nearly 35,000 more awaiting registration as refugees, and hundreds of thousands who are not registered.

Lebanon hosts 1.14 million Syrian refugees, the single highest concentration of them, but Turkey has 815,000 and Jordan has 608,000.

The agency says regional governments estimate hundreds of thousands more Syrians are seeking sanctuary in their borders without registering as refugees.

In a related story, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is taking violence against civilians in Syria “to a new level,” threatening the cross-border humanitarian aid operations recently approved by the Security Council, the Associated Press reported a top U.N. aid official as saying on Thursday.

The U.N.’s deputy humanitarian chief, Kyung-wha Kang, told the council that both the extremists and the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front are advancing on border crossings with Turkey “and could hinder additional cross-border operations.”

The threat comes as U.N. humanitarian officials reported the first bit of improvement on getting aid to hard-to-reach people inside Syria, where more than 190,000 people have been killed in the conflict and almost one in two Syrians is either internally displaced or a refugee.

Kang said the death toll is likely “much higher.”

(With Associated Press and AFP)

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