“The number of Syrians forced to seek shelter abroad since civil war began in March 2011 passed the 2 million mark on Tuesday with no sign of the outflow ending soon,” the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reports. Most are in neighboring nations.
About 1 million of the refugees, as we’ve previously reported, are children.
An additional 4.25 million people, the agency says, have been forced to abandon their homes but are still inside Syria.
“Taken together, these numbers — amounting to more than 6 million people — mean that more Syrians are now forcibly displaced than people from any other country,” the UNHCR adds. More are “on the way,” the agency warns.
According to the CIA World Factbook, Syria’s population stood at 22.5 million as of July 2013. So, slightly more than one-quarter of all Syrians have been driven from their homes by the fighting — so far.The U.N. believes an additional 100,000 Syrians, most of them civilians, have been killed since protests against the regime of President Bashar Assad began in March 2011 and civil war followed.
The new U.N. report comes as U.S. lawmakers start returning to Washington, D.C., for the debate about whether to take military action against the Assad regime because of its alleged use of chemical weapons last month. On Saturday, President Obama said that while he believes he has the authority to strike Syria, he would seek congressional authorization.
First up on the congressional agenda are hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. A “top secret/closed” session is set for 9 a.m. ET Tuesday. Later, at 2:30 p.m. ET., the committee plans to hold an open hearing. Set to testify: Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey.
As for the prospects of getting Congressional approval of military action, Politico writes that “the Democrat-controlled Senate likely offers a far easier path to passage for Obama on the Syria resolution than the GOP-run House, where dozens of members on both sides of the aisle have either come out in opposition to Obama’s call for military strikes against Syria or look like they could so.”