During a Syrian military campaign backed by the Russians aimed to clear opposition in northwest Syria, more than 800,000 Syrians have been forced to flee their homes. Most of these refugees are women and children.
This mass removal of people will most likely continue to occur as entire towns and communities seek safety in areas close to the Turkish border. Thousands of people have been on the move. Since the beginning of December, villages have been assaulted by Russian jets and Syrian artillery in attempts to retake the last rebel stronghold in the country.
David Swanson, the United Nations’ regional spokesman, reported, “residents are fleeing by the thousands in open trucks or by foot; often at night to escape detection despite the bitter cold temperatures.”
According to UN officials, the region is inching closer to a major humanitarian catastrophe. In addition to the 800,000 fleeing their homes most recently, 400,000 refugees are already in camps near the border due to earlier instances of violence. There are 3 million people trapped in the northern Idlib province where the latest military campaign has approached.
People are reportedly fleeing in open trucks and on foot at night and in freezing temperatures. Families have resorted to sleeping in the streets and in olive groves and have also had to burn garbage to stay warm.
Turkey currently holds the most Syrian refugees at 3.3 million. Lebanon is hosting over one million, while Jordan has nearly 700,000 refugees from the war-torn country. Since 2011 over 5.6 million Syrians have been forced to flee the country, and millions more continue to be internally displaced.
Sources: Reuters, 2/13/20; The Media Line, 2/14/20; UNHCR, 4/19/18.