Scene of devastation in Eastern Ghouta: the walls full of bullet holes and a hill of rubble. The war passed from here. 
Photo: Tareq Mnadili/NRC
Read caption Photo: Tareq Mnadili/NRC

Syria: Another decade of crisis on the horizon expected to displace millions more

Published 08. Mar 2021
The Syria crisis could see at least 6 million more displacements over yet another decade if the conflict, insecurity and economic deterioration continue unabated, a new report by the Norwegian Refugee Council warns today.

Ten years since the start of the biggest displacement crisis since World War 2, analysis by NRC shows that on average, an estimated 2.4 million displacements occurred in and outside Syria every year since the start of the conflict.

In 2020, only 467,000 returned home, while 1.8 million were newly displaced inside Syria. This means that for every person who managed to return home, nearly four more people were displaced.

"This was a decade of shame for humanity," said NRC Secretary General Jan Egeland. "The callous indifference towards the millions of Syrian children, mothers and fathers bereft of their homes and their lives is a damning indictment of the parties to this cruel war, their sponsors and the entire international community. Unless urgent action is taken to reverse this stalemate, the next decade will continue to bring suffering and displace several millions more."

Displaced Syrians across the Middle East overwhelmingly say that they have lost hope of returning home in the next five to 10 years, even as they face deteriorating living conditions while displaced inside and outside the country. The few who expressed a desire to return home said they would only do so if there was a political settlement and their safety was guaranteed. Across the board, Syrians were more concerned about how they will put food on the table for their families, pay the rent, or take care of medical expenses than envisioning a future back home.

The total number of people displaced inside Syria stands at 6.5 million, and around 70 per cent of them have now been displaced for over five years. Nearly a quarter of them have been displaced at least four times, with every displacement further eroding their ability to cope.

While conflict is still the number one driver of displacement, assessments show that economic deterioration has forced Syrians to flee inside the country. Of the 23,100 newly displaced in January, 32 per cent said it was due to lack of access to basic services, and 28

per cent due to economic deterioration. Despite the growing humanitarian needs, international aid to Syria could face further cuts.

"The longer this crisis is left unsolved, the more we expect economic destitution to become the prominent push factor for further displacement," Egeland said. "And yet, we know that more countries with influence are turning their back on Syria. They need to step out of their complacency and constructively step in to support the millions of Syrians who depend on vital aid and are clamouring for an end to the conflict.”

NRC also warns that the nearly 5.6 million Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries face protracted displacement. There is currently little prospect of them being able to return to Syria in the foreseeable future, or fully integrate where they are currently based. A shocking one million Syrian children have been born in exile where their future appears grim and filled with uncertainty. Meanwhile, options for third country settlement have become increasingly remote. Last year saw the lowest numbers of Syrian refugees resettled since the start of the crisis.

Read the full report here. 

Notes to editors:
  • NRC works across all of Syria and with refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq.
  • NRC’s new report, The Darkest Decade: What displaced Syrians face if the world continues to fail them, is based on analysis of existing research and new interviews with displaced Syrians conducted in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq.
  • According to OCHA’s IDP tracking, some 1,821, 973 displacements occurred inside Syria, while 448,019 IDP returns took place in 2020. According to the Humanitarian Needs Assessment Program (HNAP), 18,834 refugee returns took place in 2020.
  • Projections of at least 6 million more displacements occurring in the next decade relies on analysis of the last 10 months of 2020, which excludes the large wave of displacement that was caused by the offensive on Idlib. These figures predict displacement if a ceasefire were to mostly hold and if there are not major changes in the frontlines. It does not take into account a new major offensive in northern Syria.
  • Estimates of average number of annual displacements was calculated by combining new internal displacement figures published by IDMC each year since the conflict started in 2011, as well as new refugee figures published by UNHCR since 2013. These figures include people who were displaced for less than a month and people who were displaced multiple times over the course of the last decade. These figures do not include secondary displacement of refugees in neighbouring countries.
  • The Humanitarian Needs Assessment Programme estimates that about 70 per cent of IDPs have now been displaced for over five years and nearly a quarter have been displaced at least four times.
  • Read the full report here.
  • Photos and stories can be downloaded for free use here.
For more information, please contact:
  • Amman: Karl Schembri, Regional Media Adviser
    karl.schembri@nrc.no, +962 7902 20159
  • Oslo: NRC global media hotline
    media@nrc.no, +47 905 623 29