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World Refugee Day 2013: Eye on Syria

After fleeing the Syrian regime's bombardment of their hometown, an extended family totaling 16 has been living in a cave outside the village of Asseharia, north of Hama. Andree Kaiser

Today, June 20, marks World Refugee Day 2013, an annual United Nations-designated opportunity to raise awareness of the plight of those displaced due to war, conflict, or persecution throughout the world.

Over 45 million people worldwide are presently refugees or internally displaced persons, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres recently reported.

Every 4.1 seconds, a person becomes newly displaced from his or her home.

Despite attempts by international bodies, various governments, and private organizations to resolve conflict and repatriate those who have been uprooted worldwide, this year’s estimate marks the highest rate of displacement since 1994, when millions fled genocide in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

Much of the past year’s surge in displacement can be traced to the escalation of conflict in Syria. The figures from this conflict are staggering: over 1.5 million Syrians have fled the country since April 2011, and over 4 million Syrians are currently internally displaced. The UN estimates that over 3 million Syrians will have fled their country by the end of 2013 if current trends persist, overwhelming neighboring governments in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey, among others, many of which are already struggling with the influx of refugees.

The Museum has ongoing concerns about the increasing sectarian nature of the conflict in Syria, and is closely monitoring the situation. Read a recent Museum-commissioned report here.