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OVERVIEW of Syria | Humanitarian situation | Persecuted populations | Countries of asylum information | Cultural profiles | Essential sources | Multi-media | Syrians in Canada – settlement experiences

Overview of Syria:

Capital: Damascus
Area: 185,180 km²
Population: 18,881,361 (2006 estimate)
Language(s): Arabic (official), Kurdish, Armenian, Aramaic, Circassian, French, English
Religion(s): Sunni Muslim – 74%, Alawite, Druze, other Muslim – 16%, Christian 10%
Ethnic Group(s): Arab 90.3%, Kurd, Armenian and others – 9.7%

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Humanitarian situation

Fresh Displacement, Changing Dynamics, UNHCR Responds: UNHCR Syria 2015 mid-year report.

US Department of State, 2014 Country Report on Human Rights Practices, Syria.

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Persecuted populations

UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Asylum claims from Syria, Iraq and other conflict zones rise in first half 2014, 26 September 2014, available at: [accessed 2 February 2018].

Violence in Syria has had an immense impact on its population, the below have been listed as categories of groups affected.

  • A particular and deepening feature of the conflict is that different parties to the conflict frequently impute a political opinion to a larger group of people. These include tribes, religious or ethnic groups, or whole towns, villages or neighborhoods by association. As such, members of a larger entity, without individually being singled out, become targets of repercussion by different actors (government forces, ISIS and anti-government armed groups) due to real or perceived support of another party in the conflict.
  • Women: The situation of women is dramatically affected by the ongoing conflict. They are increasingly exposed to a range of violations from different parties to the conflict on the basis of their gender. Thousands of women have been reportedly killed as a result of shelling in civilian areas, while others are detained, taken hostage, subjected to torture and sexual or other violence, used as human shields or subjected to harsh interpretations of Shari’a
  • Children: Thousands of children have been killed or maimed as a result of crossfire and shelling. In Syria, a number of children are affected by the conflict and live in poverty, displacement and are caught in the lines of fire. They are reportedly among those most severely affected by sieges, while others are exposed to child labour, domestic violence and/or early and forced marriage.
  • Persons of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities: The conflict is associated with emergence of hardline and extremist Islamist armed groups, mostly notably ISIS. This has reportedly compounded the pre-existing vulnerability and risks of persons with gender identities. They are subjected to multiple forms of ill-treatment at the hands of various actors (their immediate and extended families, wider society, authorities, and a range of armed groups) particularly from areas under the control/influence of ISIS.
  • Palestinian refugees in Syria: By virtue of their location within in the urban centres, they have been affected by intense fighting, including in Dera’a Damascus, rural Damascus, Homs, Hama, and Aleppo governorates, and in all the twelve Palestinian refugee camps. The intense pervasive nature of the conflict, and actions of the parties to it, has immensely affected UNRWA’s operations in Syria.
  • Palestinian refugees from Iraq: They fled to Syria to escape violence following the Saddam Hussein regime. These kinds of small refugee groups experience serious protection concerns and have minimal access to durable solutions in Syria due to their history and legal status, which is significantly distinct from the broader population of Palestinian refugees in Syria. As such, resettlement for this particular group is considered vital to ensure their immediate protection and to provide them with a durable solution.
  • Refugees and asylum-seekers in Syria: In particular, Iraqis have felt compelled, for lack of another option, to return to their country of origin. Others have been displaced, once again within Syria or to other countries.

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Countries of asylum information

A number of Syrian refugees are hosted in the following countries: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. See, UNHCR Syria Regional Refugee Response – Inter-agency information sharing Portal

The conflict in Syria has caused the worst humanitarian crisis in nearly two decades. The scale of displacement within the country and the flight of refugees across borders have mirrored the patterns and rising intensity of the violence.

The impact of the Syrian refugee influx upon the societies, economies and communities of the host countries is immense. The burden of sheltering millions of Syrian refugees is far too heavy to be borne by only neighboring countries. UNHCR calls for international solidarity ask for burden-sharing by States in hosting refugees, as through resettlement, and other forms of protection for Syrians in third countries. Supporting family reunification is another significant measure which States are encouraged to consider.

Integration of Syrian refuges under temporary protection into the Turkish labor market: Challenges and opportunities.

Integrating Syrian refugees in Turkey.

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Cultural profiles

Answers to your intercultural questions from a Canadian and a local point of view. See,

People of Syrian ethnic origin in Canada.

Cultural Orientation Resource Centre provides support regarding various communities before or after resettlement. Various cultural backgrounds for refugees are provided including that of Syrian refugees.

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Essential sources

Resettlement and Other Admission Pathways for Syrian Refugees.

Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN), Syrian Refugees in Turkey: A Status in Limbo, October 2011, ISBN: 978-87-91224-75-1, available at: [accessed 1 February 2018].

UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Syria Fact Sheet, November 2017, available at: [accessed 1 February 2018].

Human Rights Watch, The Tragic Irony of Unlawful Attacks on Civilians in Syria’s De-Escalation Zones, 10 January 2018, available at: [accessed 1 February 2018].

UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Provincial Breakdown of Refugees and Asylum-Seekers in Turkey (as of 01 November 2017), 10 November 2017, available at: [accessed 1 February 2018].

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Human Rights Watch, The Tragic Irony of Unlawful Attacks on Civilians in Syria’s De-Escalation Zones, 10 January 2018, available at:

5 things to know about Canada’s Syrian refugee program.

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Syrians in Canada – settlement experiences

Settlement Services for Syrian Refugees – Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship.

What assistance can refugees get in Canada?

Frequent questions asked about Syrian refugees and Canada.

True North refugees: Where 25,000 Syrians have settled in Canada.

Syrian refugee integration – One year after arrival.

Canada’s refugee story.

Arab community in Canada.

Syrian Refugee Integration Initiative by Languages Canada.

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