One million more Syrians will be displaced within Syria by the end of the year if the war there continues unabated, potentially adding to the flow of refugees to Europe, a senior U.N. official said.
Yacoub El Hillo, U.N. resident and humanitarian coordinator in Syria, said the conflict had already displaced one million people within Syria so far in 2015, with intensified fighting in much of the country now in its fifth year of war.
He urged greater international support for severely underfunded aid efforts aimed at sustaining Syrians in their country wherever possible, and warned that a forecast harsh winter ahead would bring even more hardship.
“Unless something big is done to resolve this conflict through political means, the human train that has started moving out of Syria and the neighborhood will continue to be running for many months to come,” El Hillo told Reuters.
“Europe will be faced with a refugee situation similar to the one that led to the creation of UNHCR in 1950,” he said, referring to the establishment of the U.N. refugee agency set up to help the displaced from the Second World War.
The conflict which has killed 300,000 people since 2011 has forced half of all Syrians from their homes, creating 4 million refugees and displacing some 7.6 million more within the country.
Its repercussions are being felt like never before in Europe, with tens of thousands of refugees trekking from Greece via the Balkans and Hungary towards western Europe.
“There are a million people displaced this year and the projection is another one million will be displaced inside Syria between now and the end of the year if the violence continues to escalate,” El Hillo said, speaking by phone from Damascus.
“So it is safe to assume that more people will be heading to Europe, and rightly so, because the countries that have so generously been hosting these refugees – Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey, Egypt – are also reaching – in the case of some of them – a breaking point,” he said.
The multi-sided war which began in 2011 with an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad has accelerated this year.
Rebels have advanced against government forces in the north and the south, while Islamic State has battled Kurds in the northeast, and government forces and rebels further west. Fighting has also intensified in Aleppo.
“I remain very concerned by Aleppo and its surroundings, and Deraa and its surroundings,” El Hillo said. “These are two places in the north and in the south where I fear we will be witnessing more human movements as a result of the intensification of the fighting,” he said.
The West cannot stem the flow of one million more Syrian refugees fleeing the country without deposing the Assad regime behind the atrocities causing people to find refuge in Europe.
Reuters contributed to this article.