The number of Syrian refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt now exceeds five million, the United Nations said Thursday, appealing for more assistance.
“As the number of men, women and children fleeing six years of war in Syria passes the five million mark, the international community needs to do more to help them,” the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said in a statement.
Data collected by UNHCR and the government of Turkey put the latest total at 5,008,473, of which 488,531 were in camps.
The total of Syrian refugees abroad stood at 4.6 million at the end of 2015 and rose to 4.85 million by the end of last year, according to the data.
The first three months of 2017 saw more than 250,000 additional Syrians register as refugees, UNHCR said on its website, without providing an explanation for the apparent surge.
Turkey continues to host the highest number of Syrians displaced by the conflict — nearly three million.
Lebanon has over a million Syrian refugees, while Jordan has 657,000, with others spread across Iraq, Egypt and other North African countries.
Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have also fled to Europe, but not all of them have been granted refugee status.
A record 5,000 migrants are also believed to have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea last year while attempting to reach Europe.
On Wednesday, dozens of migrants were rescued off the coast of Cyprus after their small fishing boat ran aground near the holiday resort of Paphos, the island’s authorities said.
Police said 92 migrants including 18 women and 46 children were safely brought to shore after arriving by boat, most probably from Turkey.
A police official said the migrants were still being processed and it was not immediately clear from where they originated, although most who make the sea journey to Cyprus are usually Syrian refugees.