Syrian refugees exceed 2m

Updated: 2013-09-04 02:29

(China Daily/Agencies)

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The number of Syrian refugees has passed the 2 million mark, a United Nations agency said on Tuesday, warning that the world faces its greatest threat to world peace in recent decades.

At a news conference in Geneva, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres noted that a total of six million were displaced by the war: "At this particular moment, it's the highest number of displaced people anywhere in the world. And if one looks at the peak of the Afghan crisis we have probably very similar numbers of people displaced.

Syrian refugees exceed 2m

A supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad demonstrates in solidarity with the "Over Our Bodies" campaign to organize human shields against possible US strikes, at Qasion Mountain overlooking the capital, Damascus, on Tuesday.Khaled al-Hariri / Reuters

"The risks for global peace and security that the present Syria crisis represents, I'm sure, are not smaller than what we have witnessed in any other crisis that we have had since the Vietnam War," said Guterres, a former Portuguese prime minister.

The UNHCR said in a statement on Tuesday that a near tenfold increase over the past 12 months in the rate of refugees crossing Syria's borders into Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon — to a daily average of nearly 5,000 men, women and children — had pushed the total living abroad above 2 million.

That represents some 10 percent of Syria's population, the UNHCR said. With a further 4.25 million estimated to have been displaced but still resident inside the country, that leaves close to a third of all Syrians living away from home.

According to one previous opposition report, government forces took the strategic northwestern town of Ariha on Tuesday, though others said the battle was not over.

Assad's enemies point to the toll that two-and-a-half years of war have taken on Syria's people, of whom 100,000 have been killed and nearly one in three driven from their homes in fear.

US President Barack Obama said on Tuesday that he was confident that Congress would approve US military action on Syria.