A Timeline of the Syrian Civil War and Refugee Crisis

The Syrian crisis is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis since World War II.

The horrors and atrocities of this conflict have filled our newspapers, TV screens and minds since fighting broke out in 2011.

After 9 years of conflict, let’s take a look back and see how Syria’s civil war and resulting refugee crisis developed.

2011 — The Syrian Conflict Begins

March: Unrest within Syria as the conflict begins to take hold.

May:  Families begin to flee their homes in search of safety. The first refugees begin to arrive in Turkey.

2012 — First Refugee Camp Opens in Jordan

Zaatari refugee camp.
Dawn breaking in the Zaatari refugee camp in January 2013 | © UNICEF/UNI142926/Lane

July: The Za’atari refugee camp opens in Jordan close to the Syrian border.

Although initially opened as a temporary arrangement, the camp becomes home to tens of thousands of Syrian refugees. 

Reaching over 100,000 refugees in its first year. Today it is the largest camp hosting Syrian refugees and is home to more than 70,000 refugees.

A view of the camp in the evening during sunset in 2016 | © UNICEF/UN033530/Masri

2013 — As Conflict Intensifies, The Number of Children Affected Increases

March: Syrian refugee numbers reach the 1 million mark.

2014 — Syrian Refugees Become the World’s Largest Refugee Group

June: The total number of Syrian refugees passes the 3 million mark, with Syrians becoming the largest refugee group in the world.

Tens of thousands try to escape the conflict by attempting the dangerous passage to Europe by sea.

refugee crisis
A woman holds a young boy whose face bears signs of distress, on a rainy day near the border with Greece | © UNICEF/UNI196333/Georgiev

2015 — A World in Shock as Refugee Crisis Makes Headlines

July: Official UN figures show over 4 million Syrian refugees.

September: The world in shock after images are released of a 2-year-old Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi who washed up on a Turkish beach after attempting to reach Greece.

2016 — Syria Torn Apart By War

July-August: UNICEF rushes much-needed relief and vital support to children caught up in the biggest flashpoints of the war to date. The battle for Aleppo — Syria’s largest city.

Aleppo city has faced untold damage and horror as a result of the war in Syria | © UNICEF/UN0287092/Grove Hermansen

September: A bombing campaign causes death and destruction in Aleppo. An estimated 200 airstrikes hit the city.

2017 — One of the Deadliest Years For Children

March: More than 5 million people have now fled conflict in Syria. Official UNICEF figures show 910 children were killed in Syria in 2017.

July: An agreement is reached on curbing violence in southwest Syria during the G20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany. The ceasefire will take effect in July.

2018 — Children Continue to Suffer 

March: During the first three months of 2018, more than 1,000 children have been killed or injured in Syria. 

christmas charity gifts
Tawaseef, 5 years, and Sita, 4 years, wearing their new winter clothes | © UNICEF/UN0274601/Herwig

November: As winter fast approaches, UNICEF prepares winter campaigns to deliver winter clothes and supplies to children affected.

2019 — Refugees Battle Winter Storms and Conflict 

January to February: Winter storms bring further misery to refugees living in camps, and temporary shelters across Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan. Now, they must battle snow, rain, heavy winds, and freezing temperatures.

October: US withdraws troops from northern Syria, prompting Turkey to attack US Kurdish allies in the area.

2020 — Children and Families Flee Violence in North West Syria 

January: More than 500,000 children have been displaced, and 77 children killed or injured, as a result of intense violence in northwest Syria since 1 December 2019.

Families flee escalating violence in northern Syria | © UNICEF/UNI216981/Souleimain/AFP-Services

March 15: The 9th anniversary of the Syrian civil war and the resulting Syrian refugee crisis.

Learn How You Can Support Syria’s Children Today