SYRIA: Refugee exodus swells to 250,000

SYRIA (West Asia)                                 

Population: 22.5 million

Youth below 15 years make up more than a third of the population.

Fertility Rate:  7.6 children/woman (1970s) vs. 2.9 children/woman (2010)

Life Expectancy:  60 years (1970s) vs. 76 years (2010)

Infant mortality:  15.12 deaths / 1000 live births

Male/Female Ratio:  1.06 male  / female

Major Religion:  Islam

– The Syrian civil war began as a popular uprising a year and a half ago against the 42-year dictatorship of the Assad family.  The Syrian refugee problem began in April 2011, when the Syrian government used lethal force to crackdown on anti-government protests.

– It is estimated that 20,000 people have died in the 18-month conflict, including a record toll of 1,600 for the final week of August.  

– About 1.5 million Syrians have been displaced within the country due to the armed conflict.  This means that about 8% of the population has fled their homes.

– The number of Syrian refugees in neighboring countries (Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq) has already reached a quarter of a million, and the exodus has not stopped.   As of September 10, 2012, here is the number of Syrian refugees in the region who have been registered or are awaiting registration:

  • Jordan:  85,197 (including 36,000 awaiting registration)
  • Lebanon:  66,915 {including 19,585 awaiting registration}
  • Iraq:  22,563 {including 1,770 awaiting registration, as of September 09)
  • Turkey:  78,431 (all registered and assisted as per government statistics}.

– Over 75 %  of these refugees are women and children. 

– In August 2012, more than 100,000 Syrians fled their country.  This is the highest monthly figure since the conflict began in March 2011. 

– Syrian female refugees aged 14 and 15 who fled their country to Jordan, Libya and Iraq are being forced into “pleasure marriages” – a custom allowing men to marry for a limited period, which can last as little as 30 minutes.  Some of the victims are being sold by their desperate families to Muslim men in return for a few hundred dollars. Many of these girls are being returned to their families after hours or days of the temporary marriage. 

– The Syrian government has been carrying out “a state policy of torture”.  Tens of thousands of protesters have been imprisoned, and there have been reports of widespread torture in the government’s prisons.  Human Rights Watch identified a network of 27 “torture chambers” (detention centers) across Syriawhere torture was systematically inflicted on prisoners to intimidate and punish people who dare to oppose the government.

–  There is growing unease about the security of Syria’s undeclared chemical weapons, which is reputed to be the fourth largest stockpile in the world.  Some fear that government might use chemical weapons against rebel forces, or neighboring states supporting them.  There are also deep concerns that some of the weapon depots could fall into the hands of extremist groups such as Al-Qaida. 

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