News / Middle East

Syrian Refugee Exodus Escalates

New Syrian refugees rest as they arrive at a stopover facility near the Turkish border town of Reyhanli in Hatay province, August 9, 2012.
New Syrian refugees rest as they arrive at a stopover facility near the Turkish border town of Reyhanli in Hatay province, August 9, 2012.
Lisa Schlein
GENEVA — The United Nations Refugee Agency says that the Syrian refugee exodus continues to escalate. It says the exodus is particularly significant from Syria's most populous city of Aleppo where fighting continues between government and opposition forces.

UNHCR says it has registered more than 170,000 Syrian refugees in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq.  It says it has recorded the sharpest rises in Turkey, which is close to Syria's besieged northern city of Aleppo.

The agency says Turkey hosts almost 65,000 Syrians in nine camps, about 40 percent of them include people who have arrived this month. The UNHCR says it is scaling up its humanitarian assistance in Turkey.

The UNHCR says the number of refugees formally registered in Turkey and other neighboring countries does not reflect the actual magnitude of the exodus from Syria because many Syrians are fearful of being identified.

A Syrian refugee girl looks out from a tent amidst dust at Al Zaatri refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, August 13, 2012.A Syrian refugee girl looks out from a tent amidst dust at Al Zaatri refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, August 13, 2012.
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A Syrian refugee girl looks out from a tent amidst dust at Al Zaatri refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, August 13, 2012.
A Syrian refugee girl looks out from a tent amidst dust at Al Zaatri refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, August 13, 2012.
Refugee numbers also are climbing in Jordan.  The agency says on Thursday night, more than 1,000 people arrived at Jordanian border areas.

The Jordanian government estimates some 150,000 Syrians have crossed into the country since the Syrian uprising began nearly 18 months ago.

UNHCR spokesman, Adrian Edwards, says refugees are being housed in shelters and schools throughout the region.

"In Lebanon, UNHCR and its partners are urgently searching for alternative shelter for an increasing number of refugees who are staying in schools," Edwards said. "The schools - children go back there. These are operational schools. We need to relocate these people fast before enrollment starts in September. Meanwhile, in the north of the country, we are looking for alternative shelter for around 30 families staying in schools in Wali Kahlid.  We are working to rehabilitate unfinished houses to accommodate refugees." 

A recent spate of kidnappings of Syrians by masked men in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, has brought the war in Syria to Lebanon.

Edwards says the situation in Lebanon is becoming more difficult due a recent rash of kidnappings of Syrians and Turks.  He says aid workers now have more restrictions on their ability to move about freely.

In Iraq, the UNHCR reports more than 15,000 Syrian refugees with more than 10,000 of them in Kurdistan. The agency says it will help Iraqi authorities expand an existing camp and it is discussing a new camp to accommodate the growing number of Syrian refugees.

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