The civil war in Syria has forced a record 3 million people out of the country as more than a million people fled in the past year alone and the increasingly complex and bloody conflict has shown no sign of letting up, the UN refugee agency said Friday.
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 within the country's borders, the Geneva-based agency said, 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,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres.
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 UN estimates there are nearly 35,000 more awaiting registration as refugees, and hundreds of thousands who are not registered.
In pictures: Syria's escalating refugee crisis
In pictures: Syria's escalating refugee crisis
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A young Syrian refugee stands near jerry cans used to collect water at Al-Zaatri refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria. The United Nations hopes that political talks between the warring sides in Syria will clinch local ceasefires to allow vital food and medicines to reach millions of civilians
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Syrian refugees transport small stones for their tents at Al Zaatari refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria
3/20 Syria refugee crisis
Representatives of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a deeply divided opposition, world powers and regional bodies started a long-delayed peace conference aimed at bringing an end to a nearly three-year civil war
4/20 Syria refugee crisis
A Syrian refugee family rests inside their shelter in Hatay, Turkey
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A Syrian refugee family from Aleppo crosses the Bosphorus from Uskudar to the European side of Istanbul
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Syria's air force struck rebel-held areas around Damascus and Aleppo as face-to-face peace talks tentatively began in Switzerland
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Syrian refugees look out from an evacuated house in the Kucukpazar district of Istanbul. Syrians fill houses which have been evacuated for urban development projects. Destitute Syrian refugees who have fled the war in Syria and camps in Turkey are fighting for their lives in different parts of Istanbul
8/20 Syria refugee crisis
Refugees who moved into the houses in Kucukpazar neighbourhood near the historic Suleymaniye mosque, are struggling to live without water and heating
9/20 Syria refugee crisis
A Syrian woman and her child stand inside a building in the Kucukpazar district of Istanbul
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A Syrian boy sits in debris in the Kucukpazar district of Istanbul
11/20 Syria refugee crisis
Damaged buildings line a street in the besieged area of Homs
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People sit around a fire along a street lined with debris in the besieged area of Homs
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Children cut wood pieces in the besieged area of Homs. Efforts to get food and medical aid into Homs have become a test case on whether peace talks in Switzerland can produce any practical results almost three years into the Syrian conflict
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Boys walk along a street past damaged buildings and vehicles in the besieged area of Homs
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Syrians stand in a destroyed street following a reported airstrike by government forces on the northern Syrian city of Aleppo
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Rescue teams search for survivors on the rubble of a building following Syrian government air raids in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo
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A graveyard in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo
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A view of destruction in Aleppo's ancient Umayyad mosque, in the UNESCO-listed northern Syrian city. The mosque's minaret was blown up during clashes between opposition and government forces
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Syrians attend the funeral of victims who reportedly died of hunger in the besieged Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp in southern Damascus
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A man holds the corpse of one-year old baby Adbul Jalil Mohamed Hamis wrapped in shrouds, who reportedly died of hunger in the besieged Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp in southern Damascus during a funeral ceremony
The refugee agency and other aid groups say an increasing number of families are arriving in other countries in shockingly poor condition, exhausted and scared and with almost no financial savings left after having been on the run for a year or more. In eastern Jordan, for example, the agency says refugees crossing the desert are forced to pay smugglers $100 per person or more to be taken to safety.
Lebanon hosts 1.14 million Syrian refugees, the single highest concentration of them, but Turkey has 815,000 and Jordan has 608,000.
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The agency says regional governments estimate hundreds of thousands more Syrians are seeking sanctuary in their borders without registering as refugees.