Syria: A full-scale displacement and humanitarian crisis with no solutions in sight
A resident of Homs, Syria, shows a building heavily damaged in the renewed rounds of shelling from early June 2012. (Photo: UN Photo/David Manyua)
- Country Statistics
- Latest IDP figure:
- More than 4.25 million
- Number of refugees:
- (Originating from the country)
1,443,284 (OCHA, 6 May 2013)
- Total Population:
- 21.9 million
Download Middle East Overview
31 December 2012
Internal displacement spiralled in Syria during 2012. The number of IDPs increased from just over 150,000 newly displaced at the beginning of the year, to 2.4 million by the end of 2012. This lead to a total of at least three million people displaced from their homes, a five-fold increase as compared to 2011.
Before the start of the civil unrest against the government of Bashar al-Assad in March 2011, there were already more than 450,000 people internally displaced in the country as a result of the Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights in 1967, Kurdish forced evictions in the 1970s and the repression of the Muslim Brotherhood in Hama in 1981.
By the summer of 2012, the anti-government protests had escalated into a full-blown civil war. By then defecting elements of the Syrian army and opposition members had organised into armed groups loosely allied under the umbrella of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). The conflict moved from rural towns and the cities of Homs and Hama into Damascus and Aleppo, disrupting the country’s economy and displacing more than 1.2 million people in just a few weeks in July. The heaviest fighting took place in populated areas along a north-south axis from Aleppo through Hama, Homs and Damascus to Dara’a, but the whole country has been affected by the conflict and the internal displacement it has caused.
Most Syrians who fled their homes have sought safety with relatives, friends and host communities, paying rent as and when they can afford to do so. Many hosting areas have seen their populations explode, with relatively small cities such as al ArRaqqah and An-Nabbaq suddenly hosting hundreds of thousands of IDPs. Families without financial means or those unable to reach relatives resorted to taking refuge in public spaces such as mosques, universities, municipal parks and schools. Back in September when the academic year resumed, the government forcibly expelled a significant number of IDPs sheltering in schools without offering them alternative solutions. These IDPs found themselves forced into secondary displacement.
Multiple displacements have been a striking feature of the crisis in Syria as new fronts in the conflict open up. There has been a close correlation between the conflict and displacement, in which people fleeing the fighting took refuge in calmer neighbourhoods or cities only to find that these areas had become hotspots for escalating protest and repression. In Damascus, Douma was emptied of its inhabitants after protests in July, and IDPs fled to Harasta before insecurity forced them to move
Jordan on again, this time south to Jaramanah, Babila and Sayeda Zeinab. Tellingly, these neighbourhoods also became centres of resistance. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees have also been affected. Some became internally displaced when government forces attacked their UNRWA-run camps in pursuit of Syrian IDPs who had sought refuge there.
Two years of intensifying conflict have taken their toll on Syria’s economy, with the price of bread multiplying many times over from $0.20 at the onset of the crisis to as much as $3.50 in some parts of the country. The average salary in 2011 was no more than $300 a month. Livelihoods have become a major concern affecting both IDPs and host communities across the whole country.
The government has recognised some humanitarian needs and has negotiated with OCHA and the Syrian Humanitarian and Aid Response Plan (SHARP). The Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) has been at the forefront of the response, distributing both food and non-food items throughout the country including, albeit to a lesser extent, to the Kurdish and FSA-controlled areas. Despite its best efforts, the scale of the crisis rapidly surpassed SARC’s capacity to respond, and its president, Dr Abdul Rahman al-Attar, admitted in September that the organisation had not been able to reach as many as two-thirds of IDPs.
Syrian civil society has also tried to assist the population in need, smuggling in medicine, food, fuel and rent assistance, particularly from Lebanon and Turkey. The impact, however, has been limited by contributors’ own scarce resources. The international community, which increased its humanitarian funding request from $180 million to $480 million, has faced operational limitations caused by visa restrictions, security issues and a shortage of funds. Only 45 per cent of the funding pledged had been received as of the end of the year. WFP expressed concern, stating it could not provide enough food aid in Syria at a time when the international community was struggling to deliver winter assistance to those in need.
Syria: 1 million people displaced in Syria following beginning of Ramadan (25 July 2012)
Violence in Syria has escalated since the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan last Friday.
Fighting has spread through Damascus and the country’s economic centre Aleppo, with international organisation witnessing new patterns of displacement prompting fears that an estimated 1 million people have been internally displaced . The Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) reported that 1.5 million people were now homeless in Syria, and while food and medicine has been distributed to about 950,000 internally displaced persons, the food and shelter needs of these people is becoming a real concern.
Syria’s neighbours are straining to cope with the 250,000 refugees that have fled the country. The UN expressed its concern for the 5000,000 Palestinian refugees and the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis of which 13,000 have returned to an uncertain future in Iraq out of fear of violence in Syria since the beginning of 2012.
Syria: One year on, internal displacement in Syria increasingly critical
(21 March 2012)
According to the Syrian Red Crescent (SRCS), over 200,000 people have become internally displaced
since the Syrian uprisings which started in April 2011. However, accurate figures on internal displacement are increasingly difficult to ascertain due to government imposed restrictions
preventing international agencies from reaching displaced populations.
The humanitarian situation for IDPs has reached critical levels. Security forces’ tactics have included sealing off
the cities of Dara'a, Hama, Homs
and Idlib, cutting off electricity, water and food supplies and using heavy armament
. Such measures have resulted in an indiscriminate
and disproportionate use of force against civilians
. Further to this, reports of security forces laying mines
along Syrian borders, which endangers civilians seeking refuge outside of the country, means that the options for displaced individuals are becoming increasingly limited.
Syria: Commission of Inquiry condemns human rights violations including internal displacement and restrictions of movement
(9 December 2011)
On 2 December, the UN Human Rights Council held an unprecendented third session on Syria during which the Independent Commission of Inquiry reported
unequivocally that the Syrian government has committed systematic human rights violations
resulting in over 4,000 deaths, disappearances and widespread torture. The report underlined that the use of excessive force, allegedly including heavy artillery against civilians in particular in Homs, had internally displaced an undetermined number of people, and forced about 8,000 to take refuge in Turkey, 3,400 in Lebanon and 1,000 in Jordan.
While the number internally displaced is currently impossible to verify, with not even the Independent Commission of Inquiry being granted access into Syria, the internal displacement
of thousands of Syrians resulting from repressive actions including the cutting off
of city supplies has been consistently reported since protests began in early 2011. In late November, for example, the Syria Politic website reported that about 15,000 families totalling about 45,000 people had fled Homs
to the port of Tartous over the past two months. The authorities have also violently restricted civilians’ ability to seek safety, in many cases shooting down those who flee.
In the view of the Commission of Inquiry, the human rights violations committed amount to crimes against humanity, and it recommended that the perpetrators be referred to the International Criminal Court.
Geneva, 16 August, 2012: As the UN supervision mission (UNSMIS) prepares to withdraw from Syria, global monitor the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) warns that unless the needs of the growing numbers of internally displaced people are addressed, the future stability of the country remains bleak
1.5 million people in Syria have lost their homes and livelihoods since the outbreak of the uprisings that swept the region in 2011. ‘Syria is in an internal displacement crisis’ says IDMC’s Syria analyst Guillaume Charron. ‘For hundreds of thousands of men, women and children being forced from their homes and livelihoods by the current violence, hunger and dehydration is as much of a threat as the bombs and the bullets’.(...)
Press release: ‘Internal displacement adds a critical dimension to the Syria debate’, says global monitor
Communiqué de presse: Selon l’observateur mondial, « le déplacement interne ajoute une dimension fondamentale au débat sur la Syrie».
IDMC’s monitoring suggests that over one in every fifteen Syrians has been internally displaced following the 17 month conflict that has started as a popular uprising and has turned into a full blown civil war. The magnitude of this displacement means that it has now become intricately linked with the spreading of the conflict. The latest figure issued by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) of 1.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) was released as the battle of Aleppo was unfolding and just before the escalation of the conflict in Damascus. Given the nature of the conflict and the lack of access in Syria, the IDP figures have remained estimates derived from formal registrations and based on both the pattern of the conflict and the displacement trends. In terms of internal displacement, the battle of Homs in March 2012 marked a turning point in both the nature and the scale of displacement. Mapping of internal displacement in Syria captures this mutation and reveals that before this event, displacement was often regarded as collateral damage in a conflict between the government forces and the opposition. Following the battle of Homs the number of IDPs began to rise exponentially, creating its own socio-political dynamic that lead to the spreading of the conflict. (...)
Download the brief on Syria
16 August 2012
||A full-scale displacement and humanitarian crisis with no solutions in sight (31 July 2012) HTML | PDF
||No safe haven - A country on the move, a nation on the brink (17 August 2012) HTML | PDF
Internal Displacement Profile
"Causes and Background","General"
"Population Figures and Profile","Global figures"
"Patterns of displacement","General"
"Physical Security & Freedom of Movement","General"
"Issues of Family Unity, Identity and Culture","General"
"Patterns of Return and Resettlement","Return prospects"
"National and International Responses","National response","International response"
Previous Profile updates
- Key Documents
- Syria: No time to lose for those in need, The Elders, 21 August 2012
- Severe internal displacement crisis due to disregard for human rights and humanitarian law, United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), 9 August 2012
- A full-scale displacement and humanitarian crisis with no solutions in sight, Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), 31 July 2012
- Syrie : des secours supplémentaires parviennent à Homs, Alep et Idlib, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), 23 March 2012
- Resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council: The escalating grave human rights violations and deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Syrian Arab Republic, UN HRC, 29 February 2012