News / Middle East

UN Says Stream of Syrian Refugees Growing

Syrian refugees walk through the Dumez refugee camp in Dahuk, northwest of Baghdad, Iraq, August 13, 2012.
Syrian refugees walk through the Dumez refugee camp in Dahuk, northwest of Baghdad, Iraq, August 13, 2012.
Lisa Schlein
GENEVA — The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) says the numbers of those fleeing fighting in Syria continue to escalate. The agency has registered 157,577 Syrian refugees who have fled to Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey and expects those figures to rise sharply. 

The U.N. refugee agency says the number of registered refugees does not reflect the actual number of Syrians who have fled into neighboring countries because many are reluctant to be counted.

Agency spokesman Adrian Edwards says registration is important because without it refugees may have difficulties in getting basic help and services.

"These are fairly general impressions that our team is receiving that people have been reluctant to register because they fear that this information might get back to Syria and have negative implications for them," says Edwards. "That, in general seems to be the reason that is holding people up now. In Jordan, you see a change in circumstances now and, more people now are, in fact, coming forward to register.  Obviously, we hope that will continue because that helps us help them." 

The UNHCR reports 283 Syrians crossed the border into Jordan on Saturday night compared to what had been a steady average of about 400 people arriving each night since July. It says the decline may be because of dangers refugees encounter while fleeing. It says refugees report being fired upon by artillery and small arms fire while traveling to the border.

However, the agency is seeing a surge in the number of people applying to register in the capital, Amman, with some 300 requests a day over the past few days compared to an average of 200 a day in the previous week.

On another front, the agency has opened a new registration facility in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli. Agency spokesman Edwards says there is an increasingly perilous situation along the Lebanese-Syrian border.

"The security situation for refugees in the northern border areas of Lebanon has been deteriorating," says Edwards. "Northern parts of the Wali Khalid area, where several hundred refugee families reside has been targeted by shelling from the Syrian side of the border two to three times a week. Despite this situation, many families actually prefer to stay there as they have found refuge with host families." 

Along the Turkish-Syrian border, the stream of refugees fleeing conflict in Syria's most-populous city, Aleppo, is increasing.  

In the last four days, the U.N. reports 10,000 Syrians have arrived, bringing the total number of refugees in Turkey to nearly 60,000.  

Iraqi refugees in Syria, meanwhile, continue to return to Iraq, with nearly 26,000 having gone back since mid-July. Some Syrians also are fleeing to Iraq, mainly to Kurdistan.

U.N. emergency relief coordinator Valerie Amos arrived in Syria on Tuesday for a three-day regional trip to discuss humanitarian aid for Syrian civilians trapped in battle zones.

The U.N. estimates some 1.5 million Syrians are internally displaced and in need of emergency help.

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