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On World Refugee Day, Syria reminds us of the human cost of conflict


June 20th is World Refugee Day. It’s a time to remember the millions of men, women and children worldwide who have been displaced due to the threat of persecution, conflict and violence; to take stock of their enormous courage, strength and sacrifices.

It seems impossible to find a more heartbreaking reminder of the chilling reality of being a refugee than what’s happening right now in Syria. Of the approximately 42 million refugees and internally displaced persons around the world, an estimated 5.9 million (almost 1 in 7) are Syrians.

Well over 4 million have been displaced within Syria, while another 1.6 million have fled to neighbouring countries in the region. That’s more than a quarter of the population of a country smaller than the state of Victoria.

Just a few days ago, the number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon passed 530,000, after an increase of over 19,000 new refugees in only a week. By the end of the year, the UN estimates the numbers of Syrian refugees will more than double.

Many ordinary Syrians who have fled their homes are struggling to deal with the reality now facing them. They used to have houses, jobs, water, electricity, education and healthcare. Then, one day, it was all gone.

World Refugee Day should remind us that the news reports from the region often gloss over the stories of ordinary people who have lost everything. People who love Syria and desperately want the chance to go home.

The scale of the Syrian crisis can seem overwhelming here in Australia. But there is much that we can do as ordinary Australians to help Syrian refugees to rebuild their lives.