The escalating situation in north-eastern Syria means hundreds of thousands of people have been forced from their homes, exacerbating what is already the largest displacement crisis in the world.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians are on the move to escape the fighting and seek safety, with current UN displacement figures estimated at 160,000.

As the leading agency for refugees and displaced people, UNHCR has called for all aid agencies to have access to civilians in need to help avert a deepening humanitarian crisis.

UNHCR also reiterates its position that any return of refugees to Syria has to be voluntary, dignified and at a time when it is safe to return. It is up to refugees to decide if and when they wish to return.

A woman flees with her children from Syria’s north eastern town of Ras al-Ain. © UNHCR / Ritzau Scanpix

What is UNHCR doing to help?

UNHCR resources have been deployed in response to this latest emergency to deliver life-saving support to displaced families, including safe shelter, food, medicine, water and core relief items.

The situation is being closely monitored, and UNHCR is on the ground to provide protection and assistance to those in need, mostly women and children. Over 26,00 individuals have received core relief items in the past week.

Strongly echoing the concerns of the UN Secretary-General, UNHCR is calling for:

  • Maximum restraint from all parties
  • The protection of civilians
  • The protection of infrastructure, such as schools, homes and hospitals
  • Guaranteed, unimpeded and safe access to deliver relief to those in need


“Hundreds of thousands more are at grave risk amid active hostilities as cold weather sets in. I have echoed the Secretary-General’s call for respect for international humanitarian law by all parties,” says Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

UNHCR has been supporting Syrian refugees and internally displaced people since the beginning of the crisis in 2011 as part of the broader UN interagency humanitarian response, leading in shelter, basic assistance and protection sectors.

Find out more about UNHCR’s work in Syria >

After eight years of conflict, Syria remains the largest refugee crisis in the world, with 5.6 million Syrian refugees hosted in the region.

Most are located in Turkey (3.6 million), making it the top refugee hosting country worldwide. According to the UN estimates, a further 6.2 million more are displaced inside Syria.

The UN Secretary-General has stated that there is no military solution to the Syrian conflict and that the only sustainable solution is a United Nations-facilitated political process. 

UNHCR’s response for the Syria crisis at regional level is currently only 36% funded, with needs expected to rise quickly as the situation worsens.

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