One Year Later: 2017 Middle Eastern Refugee Snapshot

17 February 2017

Syria is the biggest humanitarian and refugee crisis of our time, a continuing cause of suffering for millions which should be garnering a groundswell of support around the world. - Filippo Grandi, UNHCR High Commissioner

Inside Syria

  • 13.5 million people in need of the basic necessities to survive in Syria. This is equivalent to 40% of the total Canadian population.
  • 6.4 million persons are displaced within Syria, without a home.
  • 6 years, the number of years the war has been raging, with little hope of peace.


  • 4,902,594 million registered Syrian refugees are still displaced, according to the UNHCR as of 16 Feb 2017. This figure includes:
    • 2 million Syrians registered by the UNHCR in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon,
    • 2.8 million Syrians registered by the Government of Turkey; and more than
    • 29,000 Syrian refugees registered in North Africa.

Who are they?

Regional demographic breakdown below is based on available data from Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon
  Age Male (51.5%) Female (48.5%)
47.6% are under age 18. That is
232,785,198 children
0–4 7.6% 7.2%
5–11 9.5% 9.2%
12–17 7.5% 6.6%
52.3% are over age 18 18–59 25.5% 23.8%
60+ 1.5% 1.7%

South of the Border

  • A 120-day suspension of the United States refugee program was part of an Executive Order signed by President Donald Trump on 27 Jan 2017. This order also indefinitely bars Syrians from entering the country. On 9 Feb 2017, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a restraining order that temporarily suspended this order. However, in an effort to bypass the opposition from the court, the Trump Administration announced this week that it would sign a new order on or about 22 Feb 2017.
  • 60,000 fewer refugees will be admitted into the US in 2017, cutting the expected admission level by more than half from 110,000 to 50,000.
  • 29,895 refugees have already been admitted, leaving only 20,105 spots left.
  • In light of these recent policy changes, there has been an alarming increase in illegal crossings from the US into Canada, with individuals walking long distances to cross the border in severe winter conditions. According to the Canada Border Services Agency:
    • 63% increase in refugee applications in 2016 through land ports of entry from the United States
    • 2,000+ more entered “irregularly” during a similar time period, without authorization, such as across unmonitored fields.

In Canada

  • 40,081 Syrian refugees were welcomed into Canada between November 2015 and January 29, 2017.
  • 350 communities across Canada welcomed Syrian refugees.
  • 3,517+ Middle Eastern refugees, many displaced from Syria, were sponsored (some applications still in process) by evangelical church refugee sponsorship between November 2015 and January 2017.
  • 7,500 total new application spots are still available (all global regions, not only Syria) for 2017.
  • 1,000 limit on the number of registered Syrian and Iraqi applications that can be submitted by Groups of Five and Community Sponsors. This limit was reached on 25 January 2017.
  • 26,000 Syrian refugees who arrived in early 2016 are now entering their first month without support from the government or sponsorship by private groups.
  • 40,081 Syrian refugees have arrived in Canada since November 2015, and will hopefully be well established and living independently in their new communities. There are challenges, and some, especially those who have been welcomed by sponsoring church communities, are faring better than others. The church in Canada has a tremendous opportunity to offer its unique resources of community and help them bridge the gap to being fully settled.

This is the second in a series of three posts in our One Year Later Series.

Author: Anita Levesque

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