Syrian refugees in Turkey could top 200,000: U.N.

Reuters News

8/28/2012 5:37:14 AM - Reuters News

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) - The number of Syrian refugees in Turkey could reach 200,000 as the conflict deepens and many others could flee to Jordan, the United Nations refugee agency said on Tuesday.

"The increase in the number of Syrians arriving in Turkey has been dramatic. Compared to previous weeks in which we saw about 400-500 people arriving a day, we've been seeing peaks of up to 5,000 people in one day over the past two weeks," Melissa Fleming, chief spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told a news briefing.

A growing number of unaccompanied children without parents are also turning up in camps, the UNHCR said. Refugees from the southern Syrian province of Deraa have reported being bombed by aircraft or shelled on their journey across the border.

"We are already looking at potentially up to 200,000 and are working with the Turkish government to make the necessary plans," another spokeswoman, Sybella Wilkes, told Reuters.

The figure would include the more than 74,000 Syrian refugees already registered in Turkey, which is building at least five new camps in addition to the existing nine.

In the past 24 hours, more than 3,000 Syrians crossed into Turkey, with a further 7,000 expected in coming days.

Turkish authorities have sought assistance from UNHCR and other agencies, Fleming said.

"But they will continue to provide access and open borders to Syrians fleeing the conflict," she said.

Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Monday called for more help from other countries with the growing refugee crisis. Last week Davutoglu suggested the United Nations may need to create a "safe zone" inside Syria.

Fleming said that was a question for the U.N. Security which the U.N. humanitarian organizations could not address.

Overall, 214,120 Syrians have been registered in four neighboring countries - Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey - exceeding the UNHCR'S forecast of 185,000 for this year.

START OF INFLUX

The pace of Syrian refugees reaching Za'atri camp in northern Jordan has doubled, with 10,200 arriving in the past week, heralding what could be a bigger mass movement, she said.

"We do believe this could be the start of a major, a much larger influx into Jordan," Fleming said.

Nearly 70,000 Syrian refugees are now registered or awaiting registration in Jordan, although thousands more have not signed up for assistance, according to the UNHCR.

"The refugees say that many thousands more are waiting to cross and violence around Deraa, which is not far across the border, is the reason," Fleming said.

In Lebanon, 54,142 Syrians have registered or are in the process of doing so, while nearly 16,000 refugees are in Iraq, where two of three crossings are open, according to the UNHCR.

Thousands more Syrians have fled to Jordan and Lebanon, but have not registered for now, she said.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Angus MacSwan)