Seven Years On: Timeline of the Syria Crisis

March 2011, Syria: Many people were hurriedly packing their bags, to escape a brutal conflict that would become the biggest humanitarian and refugee crisis of our time.

What were you doing seven years ago? In Syria, many people were hurriedly packing their bags, to escape a brutal conflict that would become the biggest humanitarian and refugee crisis of our time.

Seven years on into the emergency, Syria’s conflict has driven over five and a half million people into exile across the region and displaced another six million inside the country. Through it all – thanks to your support – UNHCR has been on the ground to help those forced to flee, while calling on all parties to find a peaceful resolution. Here are some of the key moments that have defined the crisis:


March – Beginning of unrest in Syria.

May – Syrian families begin to flee their homes. In Turkey, the first refugee camps open.


July – UNHCR and Jordanian authorities open Za’atari Refugee Camp. In just a year, it will host some 120,000 refugees.

December – The number of Syrians seeking refuge in other countries reaches half a million.


March – A tragic milestone: one million Syrian refugees registered with UNHCR.

April – UNHCR warns of the increased need for funds to support the Syrians seeking safety in host countries like Jordan and Lebanon. We work to support both refugees and local communities in these countries.

August – The number of Syrian refugee children reaches one million.


June – Nearly half of Syria’s 22 million population is estimated to be affected by the conflict and in need of immediate humanitarian aid.

October – More and more Syrians risk deadly sea journeys to reach safety in Europe.


July – The number of Syrian refugees tops the four million mark.

August – The UN Security Council expresses grave alarm over the continuing crisis in Syria, estimated to have claimed 250,000 lives and displaced 12 million people.

September – The image that shocked the world: the body of Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi washes up on a Turkish beach after a failed attempt to reach Greece. UNHCR teams in Greece and other transit countries work around the clock to offer protection and support to those arriving in Europe in search of safety.


January – UNHCR joins a humanitarian convoy to deliver life-saving aid to starving civilians trapped in besieged towns in Syria. More convoys follow, bringing UNHCR blankets, winter clothes and other aid to families in desperate need.

July-August – The battle for Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, displaces thousands. UNHCR rushes to provide shelter and basic items like blankets to those left out on the streets.

December –UNHCR delivers vital aid to Aleppo, including winter clothes, to keep displaced families warm during the cold months.


January – UN Refugee Chief Filippo Grandi heads to Syria. Moved by the scale of the devastation, he calls for faster humanitarian aid for Syrians in desperate need.

March – The number of people fleeing the war in Syria surpasses five million.

August – UNHCR and partners open Jordan’s first job centre for Syrians in Za’atari, the country’s largest refugee camp. This follows the introduction of a new work permit deal that lets Syrian refugees in Jordan apply for jobs in certain sectors.

December – Nearly 60 per cent of Syrian refugee households in Lebanon now live in extreme poverty (under US$2.87 per person per day), forcing families to make tough choices just to survive. Across the region, UNHCR steps up aid as displaced Syrians brace for another winter.


January – UN Secretary-General António Guterres appeals for humanitarian access, strict respect for international humanitarian law and the protection of civilians affected by the ongoing Syria crisis.