Meet some of the Syrian refugees living in Cyprus
After ten years, Syria remains the world’s largest refugee crisis. More than 6.6 million Syrians have been forced to flee their homes since 2011 and another 6.7 million people remain displaced inside the country.
Syrian refugees have sought asylum in more than 130 countries, but the vast majority – approximately 5.5 million refugees – live in neighboring countries within the region, such as Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. Turkey alone hosts the largest population – 3.6 million.
Poverty and unemployment are some of the biggest challenges Syrian refugees face, which have been exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 70 percent of Syrian refugees live in poverty and a World Bank – UNHCR report estimates that an additional one million Syrian refugees, along with 4.4 million members of their host communities in Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq, were pushed into poverty in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic. Millions have lost their livelihoods and are increasingly unable to meet their basic needs – including accessing clean water, electricity, food, medicine and paying rent. The economic downturn has also exposed them to multiple protection risks, such as child labor, gender-based violence, early marriage and other forms of exploitation.
Refugees living in refugee camps or camp-like situations also face an increased risk of COVID-19 infection. Overcrowded conditions in refugee camps make it difficult to practice public health measures like frequent handwashing and physical distancing.
European countries host over 1 million Syrian asylum-seekers and refugees, with the 70 per cent being hosted in two countries only: Germany (59 percent) and Sweden (11 percent). This makes Germany the fifth largest host country globally, hosting over 1 million in total, of which over half (560,000) are Syrians. Austria, Greece, the Netherlands and France host between 2 to 5 percent, while other countries host below 2 percent.
Across Europe, Syrians have been consistently afforded an international protection status, with the vast majority either been granted refugee status or subsidiary forms of protection while the minority benefiting from other humanitarian statuses. Since the onset of the Syrian crisis in 2011, far over one million (1,076,360) international protection decisions on applications by Syrians have been taken by asylum authorities in EU+ countries.
Among the main challenges faced by Syrian refugees in Europe are restrictive family reunification policies, the type of legal status which often creates a feeling of uncertainty due to the regular status reviews as well as difficulties to find employment, in particular since the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase of unemployment in several European countries.
In Cyprus, more than 12,000 Syrians have sought refuge since 2011 out of whom some 8,500 have been granted international protection, mainly subsidiary protection status (the 96.4%) with the remaining having been accorded refugee status.
Meet some of them here: