Syria seen as most dire refugee crisis in a generation

The New York Times reports: As the boom of shelling resounded along Turkey’s border with Syria here on a recent afternoon, Zakaria Deeb had nowhere left to run.

He had traveled 100 miles to Kilis with his family, chasing a false rumor that refugees would be allowed into a Turkish-run camp in the city, about 50 miles north of the Syrian city Aleppo. Instead, along with hundreds of other Syrians, the Deebs were now squatting in a gravel-strewn field across from the camp, sleeping under plastic sheets hanging from the branch of a cypress tree.

Nearly three years of bloody civil war in Syria have created what the United Nations, governments and international humanitarian organizations describe as the most challenging refugee crisis in a generation — bigger than the one unleashed by the Rwandan genocide and laden with the sectarianism of the Balkan wars. With no end in sight in the conflict and with large parts of Syria already destroyed, governments and organizations are quietly preparing for the refugee crisis to last years.

The Deebs fled their home a year ago because of fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces. Recent clashes between Kurdish fighters and the Al Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, pushed them into Turkey. Now, just on the other side of the border here, ISIS fighters were battling yet another rebel group, the Northern Storm.

“We expected the revolution to be over quickly, like in Libya and Egypt, but it’s been nearly three years already, and God knows when this war will end,” Mr. Deeb, 31, said, peering at the plumes of white smoke rising inside Syria. Children shrieked as another large mortar shell exploded across the border.

A stray bullet from Syria had landed inside the camp in the morning, wounding a 5-year-old girl in the foot. “If this camp is full, we’re willing to go to any camp inside Turkey,” he said. “We don’t want to go back to Syria.”

Syrians have been pouring out of their country in recent months, fleeing an increasingly violent and murky conflict that is pitting scores of armed groups against one another as much as against the government. Numbering just 300,000 one year ago, the refugees now total 2.1 million, and the United Nations predicts their numbers could swell to 3.5 million by the end of the year. [Continue reading…]

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