The Other Syrian Crisis

Internal Displacement as a Weapon of War

Internally displaced girls look out from their tent inside the Al-Karameh refugee camp beside the Syrian-Turkish border, January 2015. Khalil Ashawi / Reuters

In the past few weeks, the Syrians fleeing war and seeking refuge in Europe have captured local and international headlines. The crisis has triggered an important and belated public debate about EU asylum and migration policies, or the lack thereof. But Syrians seeking asylum in Europe represent just ten percent of the more than four million people who have left home since 2011, when an initially peaceful political revolution escalated into armed conflict. Syria’s neighbors—Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey—have taken in the vast majority of refugees.

Meanwhile, almost eight million—or one in three—Syrians are displaced within their own country. Only by recognizing the relationship between internal and external displacement can the international community begin to tackle the crisis, rightly defined as the worst humanitarian emergency since World War II.

In Syria, internal displacement is especially high within certain sectors of the population: for example, the UN Relief

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