Syrian Refugees Reach 2 Million as Congressional Hearings Begin

As the Senate Foreign Relations Committee begins hearings on Tuesday afternoon and the threat of international intervention looms over Syria, the UN is reporting that Syrian refugees have breached the 2 million mark. 

2,000,938 Syrians and counting have been reported as refugees fleeing political violence in Syria by UN agents monitoring the region. Over 97% of Syrians who have crossed the border are taking shelter in immediately neighboring countries, with the majority living in squalor in camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

The United Nations said it has received $548 million in funding thus far devoted to refugee assistance. This is less than half the $1.1 billion it requested. Most of the UN's refugee funding for Syria came from traditional Western donors, led by the United States, which contributed $228 million, or 40 percent of what the agency has received. European countries, Japan, Canada and Australia together contributed about 33 percent. Notably, Kuwait has contributed $112 million, or about 20 percent.

More than half of refugees are children. The UN predicts, if current trends of recent months persist, over 3 million Syrians will have left their country by the end of 2013.

"Syria is hemorrhaging women, children and men who cross borders often with little more than the clothes on their backs," the UNHCR said. UN spokespeople warned that this refugee crisis could have major political consequences. 

“These countries need massive support from the international community to be able to cope with the  [refugee] challenge,” said António Guterres, the United Nations high commissioner for refugees. “If that support does not materialize, the risks of instability in the Middle East will dramatically increase.”

Some suspect the skyrocketing refugee figure may be higher, as many Syrians fleeing the country remain unregistered. "We know there are people who will not have registered for support, for many reasons," Pete Garratt, an aid worker for the British Red Cross told CNN. "They may be afraid of any form of authority or of registering their status."

UNICEF created a website devoted to the #childrenofsyria, offering figures and stories about the growing refugee community in the region. The organization indicates that aid agencies face major funding gaps in housing, feeding, clothing, and educating the rising number of displaced children in Syria and in the broader region.

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Rachel George

Rachel is a PhD candidate in International Relations at the London School of Economics. She holds a BA in Politics from Princeton and an MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard. Her interests include journalism, U.S. foreign policy, human rights, and international law.

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