At least 914,000 Iraqis have fled their homes since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, more than a third of them since sectarian bloodshed increased early this year, the United Nations refugee agency said Friday.
The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees has concluded that 754,000 people are displaced in the country, and tens of thousands more have sought refuge abroad.
“We remain extremely concerned about the rapidly deteriorating situation in Iraq and the ongoing displacement this is creating both inside and outside Iraq,” said Ron Redmond, chief spokesman for the agency.
Redmond said that at least 40,000 Iraqis had arrived in Syria in each of the last four months.
Most of the Iraqis displaced by the war came from central areas around Baghdad, he said.
About 365,000 people -- nearly half of those who have fled to other areas within Iraq -- have been displaced by sectarian fighting that intensified after the February bombing of an important Shiite Muslim shrine in the north-central city of Samarra, Redmond said.
He said the figures were compiled by UNHCR staffers using information provided by government offices and other aid agencies.
According to Iraqi government information, 1.5 million people are classified as internally displaced, though that includes 800,000 who left their homes before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
Unlike casualty figures, which vary widely and have been the subject of much criticism from governments and nongovernmental organizations working in Iraq, the overall number of internally displaced has not been disputed, Redmond said.