Syria is a country in the Middle-East located along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea bordered by Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. Syria is a country that is in such severe conflict that the United Nations has reported that more than 9.5 million people have fled Syria since the start of the conflict, mostly women and children. This represents one of the largest refugee movements in recent history and represents more than 40% of the country’s pre-war population. 3 million Syrians have registered as refugees with temporary asylum in the neighbouring countries of Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. Only about 15% of Syrian refugees live in refugee camps. The 85% remainder of Syrian refugees live outside camps, in cities, towns and rural areas often in difficult circumstances and less than ideal locations. In addition to those refugees that have fled the country, it is estimated that half of Syria’s current population no longer live in their own homes, with 6.5 million people internally displaced in Syria.
The majority of Syrian refugees are now living in Jordan and Lebanon; the region’s two smallest countries which are nearing a breaking point under the strain. An increasing number of refugees are also fleeing across the border into Turkey, overwhelming host communities and creating new cultural tensions. In desperation, hundreds of thousands of refugees are attempting the dangerous trip across the Mediterranean Sea from Turkey to Greece. Not all of them survive the trip and those who do face incredible challenges. Resources are strained by the influx and settlement services are minimal.
Lebanon borders Syria to the west. It is the smallest of the first asylum countries but it hosts the largest number of Syrian refugees.
With a population of 4 million, Lebanon has allowed more than 35% of the region’s 3 million Syrian refugees to cross into Lebanon. This has exerted enormous pressure on the economy and public services and has caused an alarming rise in tensions as the refugees and the residents compete for jobs and local resources. There are no refugee camps. Adequate shelter remains the greatest challenge with refugees living in overcrowded apartments or houses, and in informal tented settlements. Children are allowed to attend school but due to overcrowding, few can actually attend.
Jordan, with a population of 8 million, borders Syria on the south. Jordan has five official Syrian refugee camps. For every refugee living in a camp, another 4 refugees living outside a camp. There is a struggle for survival of the 628,000 registered urban Syrian refugees.
Egypt, with a population of 87 million is a near neighbour of Syria. It hosts an estimated 300,000 Syrians of whom some 140,000 have registered as refugees with the United Nations. There are no refugee camps but the refugees face discrimination. According to a UN report, more than 58% of the Syrian children are not receiving formal education.
Turkey, with a population of 82 million, borders Syria on the north. There are 1.9 million Syrian refugees. The majority of the Syrian refugees in Turkey live outside the refugee camps. Estimates have placed the number of refugees at 500,000 in three cities alone. Children are not permitted to attend Turkish schools. 73% of school age children are not enrolled in school.
Canada: Syrian refugees resettled to Canada will come primarily from asylum countries such as Jordan and Lebanon where local integration is not possible due to the overwhelming number of refugees residing in these countries and the countries reaching their breaking points. Many will also come from refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Because of the huge numbers of refugees living in these camps, there are often water shortages, limited food and inadequate hygiene. Life in the camps is grueling with some asylum countries placing restrictions on movement and access to education and employment. The only form of shelter may be a tent that houses several families together. Children born in the camps may have health issues and difficulties caused by inadequate prenatal care, poor nutrition and environmental factors.
– by Ellie Enns, Emmanuel Covenant Church Welcoming Committee
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