The number of Syrian refugees seeking safety beyond the country's borders has topped two million, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR); a significant increase on the number of 230,000 this time last year.

Driven by desperation, and now with the added fear of imminent airstrikes, an ever-growing number of Syrians are seeking sanctuary in neighbouring countries.

Lebanon has taken in the highest number of refugees to date. Despite being Syria's smallest neighbour, it has registered nearly three-quarters of a million people.

Every 15 seconds ...[another] Syrian becomes a ... refugee. Every day we see about 6,000 people crossing international borders into neighbouring countries. These numbers are disgraceful. They are numbers that reflect a horrific [and] dangerous situation driving people from their homes, people who as a last resort leave their home and take refuge in neighbouring countries.

Melissa Fleming, a spokeswoman for the UNHCR

"The difference between Lebanon and other neighbouring countries is the fact that there are no official refugee camps for these people, many of them live among the local population, and that has started to cause tensions with the local community," Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr reported from Sabra in Lebanon. 
Jordan has opened its doors to 519,676 refugees; in Turkey the figure is 463,885; Iraq has registered 171,984; and 111,101 have fled to Egypt.

Reporting from the Kilis refugee camp in Turkey, Al Jazeera's Anita McNaught said: “They [Turkey] didn’t think the refugee numbers would top 100,000. They were thinking the international community would enforce a buffer zone in Syria, a no-fly zone, humanitarian corridors, anything to lift the refugee pressure off Turkey, but that never happened.”

Added to this, the UN says 4.25 million people have been forcibly displaced within Syria.

Antonio Guterres, the UN high commissioner for refugees, said Syria has become a "disgraceful humanitarian calamity with suffering and displacement unparalleled in recent history". 
But he added that "the only solace is the humanity shown by the neighbouring countries in welcoming and saving the lives of so many refugees".

More than half of Syria's refugees are children, and the UN estimates that three-quarters of them are under the age of 11.
An average of 5,000 Syrians are crossing into neighbouring countries every day. The UN says that is placing an overwhelming burden on the infrastructure, economies and societies of those countries.
And with the number of refugees predicted to reach three million by the end of the year, it is appealing for "massive international support" to help them deal with the crisis.

But is the international community doing enough to help and what form should that help take? And for how much longer will Syria's neighbours be able to withstand the strain?

To discuss this, Inside Story, with presenter Shihab Rattansi, is joined by guests: Melissa Fleming, a spokeswoman for the UNHCR; Paul Forsyth. a programme officer on the Global Response Team at World Vision; and Sharif Nashashibi, an award-winning journalist covering this story, whose own family in Syria has been displaced during the crisis. 

"The situation in terms of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon is the most precarious, because Lebanon has the most number of Syrian refugees, it is probably the least equipped to handle that many refugees, and you have a sectarian element to Lebanese society regardless of the refugee crisis, which has been greatly exacerbated by the crisis. So you have all these different facts that are coming together, that are causing a great deal of tension and resentment towards Syrians in Lebanon .... One in every six people in Lebanon is a Syrian refugee, [and] that is a huge proportion."

Sharif Nashashibi, journalist

Source: Al Jazeera