Number of Syrian Refugees in Middle East Crosses 5-Million Mark

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UN chief Antono Guterres speaks to young Syrian refugee children at a UN run school in  Zaatari refugee camp in northern Jordan. AP
UN chief Antono Guterres speaks to young Syrian refugee children at a UN run school in Zaatari refugee camp in northern Jordan. AP

GENEVA (Reuters) The number of people fleeing Syria’s civil war into neighboring states and Egypt has passed the 5-million mark, data from the UN refugee agency showed on Thursday.

Syrians have poured across their borders into Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq since anti-government protests in 2011 spiraled into a full-blown conflict between rebels, Islamist militants, government troops and foreign backers.

After leveling off in 2016, refugee numbers rose this year following the military victory by the government and its Russian and Iranian-backed allies in the northern city of Aleppo.

“It’s not about the number, it’s about the people,” said UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch, noting that the conflict had now lasted longer than World War Two. “We’re trying to look for understanding, solidarity and humanity.” The five-million milestone came a year to the day after UNHCR asked other countries to start resettling at least 10 per cent of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees. So far only 250,000 places have been offered.

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