Free Syrian Army fighters take cover as they enter a Syrian Army base to take part in an attack in Damascus in this February 3, 2013 file photo. The infantry skirmish for control of the barracks involved teams of fighters, their colourful headscarves at odds with grim faces and attempts at camouflage, stealing up to a two-metre perimeter wall that stretched for hundreds of metres around. They poured sustained rifle fire through gaps in the wall, tossed grenades over and did what they could to avoid incoming rounds. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic/Files (SYRIA - Tags: CIVIL UNREST POLITICS CONFLICT) ATTENTION EDITORS PICTURE 17 OF 20 FOR PACKAGE 'BLOODY STALEMATE IN DAMASCUS' SEARCH 'GORAN STALEMATE' FOR ALL IMAGES


The civil war in Syria has forced over 2 million people out of the country and over 4 million others are displaced within its borders, making Syria the nation with the largest number of people torn from their homes right now, U.N. officials said Tuesday.

If the conflict continues 3.5 million Syrian refugees are expected by the end of the year, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said.

“At this particular moment it’s the highest number of displaced people anywhere in the world,” he told reporters in Geneva. “Syria has become the great tragedy of this century — a disgraceful humanitarian calamity with suffering and displacement unparalleled in recent history.”

Almost 5,000 citizens a day on average are flowing out of Syria — a country of some 23 million people — many of them with little more than the clothes they are wearing, Guterres said. The number of refugees has surged by 1.8 million in just 12 months — up from almost 231,000 a year ago.