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Millions on the move

Refugee crisis: Europe & Middle East Crisis Watch

More people have been forced to flee their homes by conflict and crisis than at any time since World War II. The International Rescue Committee is providing relief to millions of uprooted people in war-torn Syria and other countries in crisis; in Europe, where refugees continue to seek safety; and in our 29 resettlement offices in the United States.

What's happening

  • The civil war in Syria—now in its sixth year—has sparked the largest global displacement of people in recorded history. Afghans fleeing Taliban rule are the second largest group arriving in Europe.

  • In 2015, images of 3-year-old Alan Kurdi's lifeless body stranded on a Turkish beach focused the world’s attention on the brutal conflicts driving families to risk dangerous sea crossings to Europe. Closed borders have stalled 57,000 refugees in Greece.

  • Freezing temperatures are putting the lives and wellbeing of thousands of refugees stranded in Greece and the Balkans at risk. the IRC. Children, the elderly and other vulnerable people may die on European soil this winter unless urgent action is taken.

Read our latest statement

Refugee crisis briefing

The civil war in Syria has been one of the largest drivers of the global refugee crisis, which has left 65 million people displaced. With neighboring countries no longer able to absorb uprooted Syrians after more than five years of fighting, hundreds of thousands of refugees have fled to Europe to seek safety and better lives.

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What is the source of the crisis?

A Syrian girl in a raincoat stands by a campfire in a refugee settlement in Greece

Since civil war exploded inside Syria in 2011, over 11 million people have fled their homes, with more than four million refugees sheltering in neighboring states that are struggling to support them. Several rounds of peace talks have failed to stop the fighting.

Refugees traveling to Greece pay smugglers 12 times the amountit costs to go from Turkey to Germany safely by plane.

The ongoing violence in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries in crisis has pushed over 1 million desperate people to seek safety and a new start in Europe. Most of the refugees have arrived on the islands of Greece. Lesbos alone has seen thousands of people a day land on its shores in dangerously overcrowded rubber rafts before pushing on to the continent.  

As the flight to Europe continues, some lawmakers in the United States  — prompted by unfounded security fears — have moved to block the arrival of the comparatively few Syrians and Iraqis who have been accepted by the U.S. for resettlement.

How is the IRC helping?

The IRC is the only international aid organization working on all fronts of the crisis.

In the Syria region: Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey: More than 3,000 IRC aid workers and local volunteers operating inside Syria and in four neighboring countries have reached over 3.3 million Syrians fleeing violence with emergency relief and long-term support. We're focusing on health care, protection of vulnerable women and children, education, and economic recovery. 

In Afghanistan:  The IRC has worked inside Afghanistan for nearly three decades and currently reaches over 4 million people in more than 4,000 communities, focusing on community-driven reconstruction projects and education. We also provide emergency relief to people who have been forced to flee their homes by violence.

A refugee women holds a small boy in a refugee settlement in Greece.

In Europe: The IRC was one of the first aid organizations to assist the thousands of refugees arriving each day on the Greek island, Lesbos. IRC aid workers continue to work around the clock in Greece and in Serbia to provide essential services, including clean water and sanitation, to families living in terrible conditions. And we are helping new arrivals navigate the confusing transit process and understand their legal rights.
 
In the United States: The IRC has 29 offices across the country and has resettled 270 of the 1,541 Syrian refugees who have been accepted into the U.S. We provide immediate aid to refugees, including food and shelter, as well as access to the tools of self-reliance: housing, job placement and employment skills, clothing, medical attention, education, English-language classes and community orientation. We're also calling for U.S. leaders to do more, and accept 100,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2016.

Get an in-depth update on the IRC's crisis response.

How can I help refugees?

Donate to the IRC's response to the refugee crisis

The work of the IRC is possible only through the generosity of caring people like you. Your gift helps the IRC respond immediately and effectively to protect vulnerable families in most desperate need. You can help us aid refugees fleeing to Europe from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries in crisis by making a contribution in support of the IRC's emergency response.

Donate now

A Syrian family on the landing of their new apartment in Dallas

More ways to help

How can I volunteer to help refugees? Can I donate clothing or other goods to refugees? Your questions about how you can get involved are answered in our FAQ.

How to help refugees

Our impact

In 2015, the International Rescue Committee and our partners responding to the refugee crisis provided:

3.3 Million

Syrians fleeing violence with vital assistance delivered by more than 3,000 IRC aid workers and local volunteers operating in five countries in the Middle East.

The IRC provides emergency aid, health care, legal counseling, and help for women and girls who are victims of violence.

Read more about aid for Syrians.
5

local nonprofit organizations in Serbia with support that enables them to provide urgently needed aid to thousands of refugees en route to Europe.

The IRC previously worked in Serbia for 12 years, assisting people fleeing fighting in Kosovo, Bosnia and Croatia. We closed the program in 2004.

Read about our work in Serbia.
270

of the 1,541 Syrian refugees who have been accepted into the U.S. with resettlement support.

We support newly arrived refugees by greeting them at the airport and providing immediate aid, including food and shelter.

See where we work in the U.S.

News and features

Rescue stories

  • For children ... education is everything. We must give them a good start, give them every chance to be whoever they want to be, to be what Syria needs. I thought I could help to build a generation of thinkers, of doers, that could save Syria."
    Nahala, from the besieged Syrian city of Dara'a, is one of 57,000 refugees trapped in Greece by border closings along the Balkan route.
  • I want to work...on empowering women to speak up in our society where men are those who make decisions at home. I want women to be able to speak up without being afraid, say their opinions, make their own decisions."
    Through the IRC's Vision not Victim program, Nour, a Syrian refugee living in Jordan, was able to envision her future as a lawyer.
  • If the war in Syria ends ... we’ll think about going back, but for now, we have settled here in Jordan. I want to enhance our lives here. I want to keep volunteering. I want to give my children a good life and an education."
    Amira volunteers with the IRC to bring lifesaving health care to fellow Syrian refugees in Jordan

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