from Pressure Points and Middle East Program

How Many Refugees From the Assad Regime Are There? Try 500,000.

April 06, 2012

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The Assad regime has, according to the United Nations, now killed over nine thousand of its citizens. How many have fled the country since the revolt against Assad began last year?

The answer is 42,000, says the BBC or 50,000, says the U.S. State Department.

These figures are ridiculously low. According to one report, “In Jordan…local officials have put the number of incoming refugees at approximately 90,000, while UNHCR has only registered about nine thousand.” Similarly, UNHCR says “In Turkey, about 17,000 Syrians are registered with the government” and CNN says  “More than 23,000 Syrian refugees now reside in Turkey,” but others report one single refugee camp already holds 22,000. Indeed 2,350 Syrians fled to Turkey in one day this week.

Then there is Lebanon, where there are more than 16,000 refugees registered with UNHCR but the totals are almost certainly several multiples of that number.

If the figure of 90,000 for Jordan is correct, one can add what must be a similar number for Lebanon and a larger one for Turkey. There are, probably, a quarter of a million refugees from Syria—and then of course there are the people UNHCR does not count, those who are internally displaced: refugees within their own country. That number has been estimated at 200,000.

It’s fair, then, to say that the Assad regime’s attacks against the people of Syria have already displaced nearly a half million people, and perhaps far more. On February 23, Secretary of State Clinton said of the violence in Syria that "World opinion is not going to stand idly by."  As the numbers of people killed, internally displaced, and forced to flee their country grow by the thousands each week--indeed each day--she may wish to withdraw her statement.

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