45% of Syrians forced to leave their homes
7.6 million Syrians are displaced within the country
3.8 million Syrians have sought refuge in other countries
33 applications supported by the UN accepted by Gulf nations
5,000 Syrians taken in by Britain since 2011
0.17% of Syrian refugees offered places to resettle in Europe (asides from Germany)
2.2% of Syrian refugees offered places to resettle in 2015
145 countries signed the Refugee Convention
Five years have passed since the outbreak of war in Syria, leaving millions of innocent civilians trapped in their homeland or fleeing as refugees.
The following is a look at the past, present and future situation for Syria.
When did the crisis start?
Anti-government demonstrations began in March of 2011, as part of the Arab Spring. People who demonstrated (known as rebels) wanted to express their deep-seated resentment at the ageing Arab dictatorships (especially under President Bashar al-Assad) and anger at the brutality of the security within the country, unemployment, rising prices, and corruption that followed the privatisation of state assets in some countries.
Rebels began fighting back against the regime after the government’s violent crackdown and the peaceful protests quickly escalated into violence.
By July, army defectors had loosely organized the Free Syrian Army and many civilian Syrians armed themselves and joined the opposition.
Divisions between secular and Islamist fighters, and between ethnic groups, continue to complicate the politics of the conflict.
The 2011 uprisings could be seen as a catalyst for long-term change of which the final outcome is yet to be seen. The main legacy of the Arab Spring is crushing the myth of Arabia’s political passivity.
What is happening to Syrians caught in the war?
Now, five years after it all began, the full-blown civil war has killed over 220,000 people, half of whom are believed to be civilians.
Bombings are destroying crowded cities and horrific human rights violations are rife.
Basic necessities like food and medical care are sparse.
If you also consider refugees, more than half of the country’s pre-war population of 23 million is in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, whether they still remain in the country or have escaped across the borders.
Why hasn’t the international community been more hands-on throughout the conflict?
The division between Russia and other countries such as France, Britain and the United States have made it difficult for countries to intervene. Historically, Russia has ties with the Syrian regime, providing weaponry to the government. Russia has heavily criticised Western states for attempting to intervene and impose their views. It has been impossible to reach a consensus.
In early 2014, peace talks – known as Geneva II – broke down after only two rounds. The UN pointed the finger of blame at the Syrian government’s refusal to negotiate with opposing parties.
A year later, the turbulent conflict with Daesh meant a desperate push for a political solution in Syria was needed.
In January 2016, the US and Russia invited representatives of the warring parties to attend ‘proximity talks’ in Geneva to discuss a Security Council-endorsed road map for peace, including a transitional period ending with elections and a ceasefire.
Government forces launched a major offensive to around the northern city of Aleppo which led to the first round breaking down while still in the ‘preparatory’ phase.
However, the talks resumed in March 2016, two weeks after the US and Russia brokered a nationwide, but partial ‘cessation of hostilities’ that Washington reported saw the level of violence fall by up to 90 per cent.
Why has the war lasted so long?
The Syrian war has become more than just a battle between those with opposing views about President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad.
A key factor has been the intervention of world powers, including Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United States.
Contributing directly to the intensification and continuation of the fighting turning Syria into a proxy battleground is the military, financial and political support for the government and opposition.
External powers have also been accused of trying to divide the country’s religious and political groups in what was a broadly secular state.
Such divisions have encouraged both sides to commit atrocities that have not only caused loss of life but also torn apart communities, hardened positions and dimmed hopes for a political settlement.
Jihadist groups have also seized on the divisions, and their rise has added a further dimension to the war. So-called Islamic State (or Daesh), which controls large parts of northern and eastern Syria, is battling government forces, rebel brigades and Kurdish groups on the ground, as well as facing air strikes by Russia and a US-led multinational coalition.
Syrian Refugee Crisis
According to the charity Mercy Corps, there are more than 4.7 million Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries. Around one million have applied for asylum in the safety of Europe.
More than 13.5 million people are still in dire straits inside Syria.
7.6 million Syrians are internally displaced. According to the U.N., it will take $7.7 billion to meet the urgent needs of the most vulnerable Syrians in 2016.