100,000 people flee Syria’s violence in just one month
More than 100,000 Syrians sought refugee status during August in what the United Nations has described as an “astonishing” escalation in the pace of departures since the hostilities began.
The August total accounts for more than 40 per cent of the 234,368 Syrian refugees who, as of the last count on 2 September, had fled for surrounding countries since the uprising began 17 months ago, the UN refugee agency said yesterday.
Speaking at the UN’s European headquarters in Geneva, UNHCR chief spokeswoman, Melissa Fleming, said: “It’s quite an astonishing number … and probably points to a very precarious and violent situation inside the country.”
The tide of people fleeing underscores the intensifying violence between president Bashar al-Assad’s regime and the armed anti-government groups.
But even August’s figure – the highest monthly total so far – only counts refugees who are registered or awaiting registration. Officials acknowledge the real number is probably well above 200,000.
Of the accounted number of refugees, a little over 80,000 are in Turkey. Another 8,000 are waiting to be processed at the border, Ms Fleming said. The Turkish government is making plans to handle at least 150,000 refugees if the conflict worsens.
Jordan has more than 77,000 Syrian refugees, but officials there are braced for as many as 150,000 refugees and are straining to build more camps to accommodate all those flowing in from Syria’s south, where the uprising against Mr Assad’s government began in March 2011. Lebanon has more than 59,000 refugees and Iraq has nearly 18,700, according to the UNHCR.
The agency and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent are continuing to expand their operations to support displaced Syrians and appealing to all nations to take in Syrians who need asylum.
The UN’s World Food Programme spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs said her agency is scaling up operations to provide food urgently needed by 1.5 million people this month, mainly in areas where there has been fighting and people have been made homeless.
The fighting has spread to the country’s two largest cities, the capital, Damascus, and the commercial hub, Aleppo.
Ms Byrs said more than 264,000 people are taking shelter in public buildings in the Aleppo region; about 200,000 in rural areas and more than 64,000 in the city proper.
Activists say about 5,000 people were killed in August, the bloodiest month so far in the uprising and more than three times the monthly average. The UN children’s agency says 1,600 were killed last week alone, another record high.
The two major activist groups, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Co-ordination Committees, have raised their total death toll to between 23,000 and 26,000.
The new president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Swiss diplomat Peter Maurer, yesterday met Mr Assad in Damascus. Syria’s state-run news agency reported that Assad told the Red Cross it was welcome to operate on the ground in Syria “as long as it works in a neutral and independent way.”
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