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UNHCR Spokesman: 'No End in Sight' to Syrian Refugee Problem


FILE - Syrian refugees gather at the Turkish border as they flee intense fighting in northern Syria between Kurdish fighters and Islamic State militants in Akcakale, southeastern Turkey, June 15, 2015.

FILE - Syrian refugees gather at the Turkish border as they flee intense fighting in northern Syria between Kurdish fighters and Islamic State militants in Akcakale, southeastern Turkey, June 15, 2015.

A spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency warns that the number of refugees fleeing Syria is "likely to continue to grow" beyond the 4 million who have so far left their country.

Speaking to VOA Kurdish via Skype, UNHCR spokesman Brian Hansford said that “unfortunately, with the conflict in Syria now into its fifth year, there seems to be no end in sight.”

He spoke after the UNHCR said data showed an increase of 1 million refugees in just the past 10 months, and 2.4 million in the past two years.

Daryl Grisgraber, a senior advocate in the Middle East section of Refugees International, told the VOA Kurdish service that the international community “has done what they can,” although in the past two years donations have trailed off.

What began in March 2011 as peaceful protests against President Bashar al-Assad's government spiraled into a civil war that now includes multiple rebel groups and the militant Islamic State group battling with each other and pro-Syrian forces.

Despite international efforts to call for a halt to fighting, and to convene two peace conferences last year, the violence continues to leave more Syrians dead and force others to flee their homes.

"This is the biggest refugee population from a single conflict in a generation," U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said. "It is a population that deserves the support of the world but instead is living in dire conditions and sinking deeper into abject poverty."

Syria's neighbors have taken in the bulk of the refugees, with Turkey hosting 1.8 million, Lebanon 1.1 million, Jordan 630,000 and Iraq 250,000. Another 130,000 Syrian refugees are in Egypt.

In addition to those who have left the country, the U.N. says 7.6 million people remain displaced within Syria.

The UNHCR said Thursday that it expected another quarter of a million Syrians to become refugees before the end of the year.

The agency reiterated pleas for the international community to contribute the $5.5 billion it needs to provide food, shelter and health care, as well as to ease the burden of those communities that have been inundated with the vast number of refugees from Syria. So far, the U.N. said, it has received only about one-fourth of the funding.

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