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Middle East

Syria's refugee crisis 'is worst since Rwanda Genocide in 1994'

United Nations officials say war crimes and crimes against humanity are 'the rule' in Syria today

The Syrian civil war has created the world’s worst refugee crisis for 20 years, according to the United Nations, which says that 6,000 people are fleeing the conflict every day.

The head UN’s refugee agency, Antonio Guterres, speaking to a rare public session of the Security Council in New York, laid bare the misery facing ordinary Syrians, saying that the consequent displacement of people had not risen “at such a frightening rate” since the Rwandan Genocide in 1994.

The UN estimates that 5,000 people are being killed in the country every month, which it describes as “a drastic deterioration of the conflict”. The latest figures put the total killed in the conflict at 93,000. According to Mr Guterres, two-thirds of the nearly 1.8 million Syrian refugees known to the agency have fled since the beginning of 2013 – an average of over 6,000 each day. In reality the official figures are likely to be dwarfed by the actual number of refugees.

Despite the horrifying numbers, the international community has been hopelessly paralysed in its efforts to end the fighting. Attempts to resolve the conflict at the UN have been stymied by disagreements between Western powers, which have called for the end of President Bashar al-Assad’s tenure, and Russia, which has supported the regime in Damascus.

Such are the scale of differences that it has so far proven impossible to even hold a peace conference on Syria, despite all sides agreeing that only a diplomatic solution will end the nearly two and half year civil war.

Warning that the “Syrian conflict could ignite the whole region,” Mr Guterres nonetheless praised Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, which have taken in hundreds of thousands, if not more than a million, Syrian refugees.