What is a refugee?

Show your support

What was Syria like before the war?

Perhaps more familiar than you think.

Not long ago, Syria was at peace.

Before the fighting broke out in 2011, Syria was a vibrant country. Over 22 million people lived here. Many led lives similar to people in other developing countries – with music, fashion and sport among the most popular pastimes.

Syria has been a centre of art and culture since 3,000 BC.

The unique art and architecture found here has been shaped by many civilizations – including Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman and Islamic.

In 2008, Damascus was honoured as the Arab Capital of Culture.

Visit Damascus in 360º

Visit Damascus

  • Souq al-Hamidiyya

    This lively market in Old Damascus is the social heart of the city.

Videos of FC Barcelona were popular on YouTube.

In 2010, Gorillaz became the biggest Western band to play here.

The tourism industry was flourishing before the war.

Revenue from international tourism (current US$)

Syria drew more tourists than Australia in 2010.

And with good reason. Syria is a unique country with a rich history.

Visitors would come here to explore ancient Roman ruins, vast deserts, bustling souks, Mediterranean beaches and mosques from the early days of Islam.

Meet Nadia, whose family owned an orchard of fruit and nut trees.

See Nadia’s story

Syria was home to six UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Explore in 360

  • Ancient City of Aleppo

    A rich trade crossroads dating back to the 2nd millennium BC.

  • Ancient City of Bosra

    Important archaeological ruins on the ancient route to Mecca.

  • Ancient City of Damascus

    One of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world.

  • Ancient Villages of

    Northern Syria

    Forty abandoned villages from the late Antiquity and Byzantine periods.

  • Crac des Chevaliers and

    Qal'at Salah El-Din

    Two of the most significant fortified castles from the Crusades.

  • Site of Palmyra

    Ancient Roman ruins in the desert northeast of Damascus.

The war has damaged or destroyed every one of them.


Great Umayyad Mosque of Aleppo 2009

Great Umayyad Mosque of Aleppo 2013

Syria as we knew it no longer exists.

What is going on in Syria?

What is going on in Syria?

“The biggest humanitarian and refugee crisis of our time.”

Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees

What began as a peaceful protest in 2011 quickly spiralled into deadly conflict.

Learn more about the crisis

The war has lasted

  • YRS
  • :
  • DAYS
  • :
  • HRS
  • :
  • MINS
  • :
  • SECS

More than 2 million Syrians have been killed or injured.

Around 24,000 of those who have died are children.

Meet 7-year-old Bana, who shared her experience of war on Twitter.

Read some of her tweets

“This is what refugees from Syria ... have fled from.”

Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees

See Aleppo from above

One in four schools have been damaged, destroyed or used for shelter.

And 24.5 million years of education have been lost.

Over half of Syria’s hospitals are no longer functioning.

See one clinic that is being rebuilt

Millions of hectares of farmland have been destroyed or abandoned.

Causing food costs to soar by as much as 900%.

More than half of all Syrians have been forced from their homes.

Most seek refuge within Syria, if they can. They make up the second largest internally displaced population in the world.

“If you were lucky you had time to pack a bag. If not, you simply dropped everything and ran.”

Abandoned cars at the Turkish border.


28 August 2009

6 November 2014

By 2017, over 5.5 million Syrians had become refugees.

What is a refugee?

What is a refugee?

refugee rɛfjʊˈdʒiː/ noun

A person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution or violence.

“Planes would fly above and drop bombs. We got scared, hid and started crying.”

Meet sisters Shamsa and Thuha

There are now more people displaced by conflict or persecution than any time since World War II.

Today over 65 million people around the world have been forced to flee their homes to escape danger, and find safety.

More refugees come from Syria than any other country.

Five largest refugee populations in 2016 (millions)

Many Syrians are educated, with professional backgrounds.

*Based on Syrian immigrants living in the US


18 in 100

have advanced degrees


11 in 100

have advanced degrees

They’re developers like Mojahed Akil, who created an app to help refugees in Turkey.

Meet Mojahed

Microbiologists like Darie Alikaj, now a school teacher in Istanbul.

Meet Darie

Athletes like Yusra Mardini, who competed for the Refugee Olympic Team at Rio 2016.

Meet Yusra

Millions have been torn apart from their families in their search for safety.

Follow one family's journey

Women and children make up the majority of Syrian refugees.


are women and children


are adult males

Each icon represents 200325k registered Syrian refugees

Men, women or children – all have legal rights under international law.

Over 144 countries have signed the 1951 Refugee Convention pledging to provide access to asylum to all refugees.

Learn more

“The contribution of refugees to their new homes worldwide has been overwhelmingly positive.”

Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees

For many Syrians forced to flee the future remains uncertain.

Where are Syrian refugees going?

Where are Syrian refugees going?

Anywhere, as long as it’s safe.

“Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq have been sheltering an unrelenting flood of Syrian refugees.”

António Guterres, UN Secretary-General

87% of Syrian refugees have escaped to five neighbouring countries.

  • Turkey

  • Lebanon

  • Jordan

  • Iraq

  • Egypt


Total Syrian refugee population 5.5m in 2016

Za’atari, a refugee camp in Jordan, is home to 80,000 Syrians.

See Za’atari from above

Nine in ten Syrian refugees live in cities, not camps.

The majority have resettled in urban areas within their host country. But city life poses different challenges, and many struggle to find work, pay rent or send their kids to school.

Meet Fadia, who is struggling to raise her children in Lebanon.

See Fadia's story

“When a mother and child come across the border, what are we supposed to do?”

King Abdullah II of Jordan

Watch his speech

With help, Syrian refugees can find a safe place to call home.

How can I help Syrian refugees?

How can I help Syrian refugees?

Here are 3 ways you can make a difference now.

Seven years of conflict have left around 11.2 million Syrians homeless. There's lots you can do to help build a better future for Syrian refugees.

Rotate your device

Seven years of conflict have left millions homeless

The world is looking for answers

Searching for Syria

Exploring the world's top questions about the Syrian refugee crisis

In partnership with

Searching for Syria

Exploring the world's top questions about the Syrian refugee crisis

In partnership with

Searching for Syria

It looks like you're using an older device or web browser. Please update your browser or visit on a newer device.

In partnership with