News / Middle East

UN: Syrian Refugee Exodus to Reach 700,000

A Syrian man, who fled his home due to government shelling, holds his son as they take refuge at Bab Al-Salameh crossing border, hoping to cross to one of the refugee camps in Turkey, near the Syrian town of Azaz, Sept. 12, 2012.
A Syrian man, who fled his home due to government shelling, holds his son as they take refuge at Bab Al-Salameh crossing border, hoping to cross to one of the refugee camps in Turkey, near the Syrian town of Azaz, Sept. 12, 2012.
Selah Hennessy
Up to 700,000 refugees could flee Syria by the end of the year, the U.N. refugee agency says, a huge increase from its previous forecast.

The UNHCR is appealing for $500 million in donor funding to cope with the basic needs of Syrian refugees pouring into Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and Turkey.

Syrian Refugees by Country

  • Jordan: 94,454
  • Turkey: 87,774
  • Lebanon: 79,811
  • Iraq: 29,441

Source: UNHCR
The new forecast of 700,000 refugees is more than three times the last estimate made in August, when the agency predicted 185,000 people would flee Syria.

“This is not business as usual," said the agency’s regional co-coordinator for Syrian refugees, Panos Moumtzis, during a news briefing in Geneva.  "The early months of the crisis, we were responding with 1,000, 2,000, 5,000 in a week.  Now we have gone to 2,000 to 3,000 crossing on a daily basis.

"So it really is a completely different speed of emergency response, responding to the best of our ability to basically to provide the very, very minimum for people who arrive and flee and arrive in a traumatized state once they cross the border," he added.

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Moumtzis said nearly 300,000 Syrian refugees have left their country during the past 18 months of conflict.

Many, Moumtzis said, are arriving with only the clothes on their backs.  Some have been displaced many times before leaving Syria and are in need of immediate humanitarian assistance.

The situation is only going to become more challenging, he said.  "It is extremely important to be ready for the winter, and this plan includes rainfall shelter," he said.  "So winterized tents, caravans, special containers, in particular in Jordan, but also looking at clothing, looking at blankets, at heaters, kerosene, to provide everything possible to make sure that the Syrian refugees are ready to face the harsh winter months."

Most in tents

  • A Syrian girl, who fled her home with her family due to fighting between the Syrian army and the rebels, takes refuge at the Bab Al-Salameh border crossing, near the Syrian town of Azaz, Aug. 23, 2012.
  • Syrian refugees after the medical check at a Moroccan military field hospital in Zaatari refugee camp in Mafraq, Jordan, Aug. 10, 2012.
  • A Syrian refugee boy carries toys, clothes and pocket money received by Muslim children on the first day of Eid al-Fitr holiday, at Zaatari Refugee Camp in Mafraq, Jordan, Aug. 19, 2012.
  • Syrian refugee children run while carrying traditional gifts of toys and clothes they received from individual donors and international organizations on the first day the Muslim holiday of Eid al- Fitr at the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Mafraq, Jordan, Aug. 1
  • Syrian refugees wait outside a clinic at Zaatari Syrian refugee camp, in Mafraq, Jordan, Aug. 16, 2012.
  • Syrian girl, Raghad Hussein, 3, who fled her home with her family due to fighting between the Syrian army and the rebels, stands by her family's makeshift tent, near Azaz, Syria, Aug. 26, 2012.
  • A Syrian girl, who fled her home with her family due to fighting between the Syrian army and the rebels, looks back while checking her laundry, near the Syrian town of Azaz, Aug. 26, 2012.
  • An elderly Syrian man, who fled his home due to fighting between the Syrian army and the rebels, takes refuge at the Bab Al-Salameh border crossing, in hopes of entering one of the refugee camps in Turkey, near the Syrian town of Azaz, Aug. 23, 2012.
  • A Syrian girl, who fled her home with her family due to fighting between the Syrian army and the rebels, sleeps by her family's belongings, near the Syrian town of Azaz, Aug. 23, 2012.

UNHCR says half the Syrian refugee population is living in camps, mostly in tents.

One camp in Jordan that was opened two-months-ago hosts more than 30,000 Syrians.  Another camp in northern Iraq has more than 27,000.  In Turkey, almost 88,000 refugees live in 13 camps.

UNHCR spokesperson Sybella Wilkes said host countries are struggling to keep up.

“We were hearing today from Turkey," Wilkes said.  "They set up two new camps in the last two weeks - they are already full.  They were telling us it takes months to set up the camps and then they fill up in days.  So undoubtedly there is a tremendous strain on the host countries.”

Wilkes said donor money will go towards food distribution, child immunization, education, and shelter, including tents and financial assistance so that refugees can rent apartments.  She said large donor contributions have come from the European Union, the United States, and the Gulf States.

UNHCR reports that women and children make up 75 percent of the Syrian refugee population.

More violence

The call for aid follows what a Syrian rights group says was the bloodiest day since the 18-month conflict in Syria began.

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The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 people, mostly civilians, were killed Wednesday in Syria.

The group reported deaths in areas across the country, including Deir Ezzor, Homs, Hama, and in the capital, Damascus.  Its reports from witnesses inside the country cannot be confirmed because of restrictions on foreign media.

Syrian rebels detonated two suicide car bombs Wednesday at President Bashar al-Assad's heavily guarded army headquarters in Damascus, killing four security guards and sparking a gunbattle in which an Iranian journalist also died.

Information Minister Omran Zoubi blamed the attack on terrorists, a term the government uses for rebels opposed to Assad.

An Islamist militant group claimed responsibility for the attack, according to a statement posted on the Internet.

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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: sahani from: usa
September 28, 2012 8:31 AM
Todays all world problems are due to saudi arebia and its culture.
imagine saudi culture is removed from the 56 islamic nation. Things will be all right soon. JUst take away the saudis system of teachings.
UNited nations should know this by this time and make sure all refuses are send to saudi arebia for living.

by: Lewis Lauren from: China
September 28, 2012 3:13 AM
My heart goes out to those innocent refugees. They did nothing to deserve this. Looking at those pictures makes me realize how lucky I am that I have a warm bed to sleep in when I am tired, something to eat when I am hungry, a hospital to go when I am sick...

by: Vis8 from: NJ
September 27, 2012 10:21 AM
Obama and Hillary started, supported, financed and provided favorable media to the 'arab spring rebels' also known as jihadis.

Tell Obama to send trillions of our tax dollars as aid to these hooligans.

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