Over 100,000 Syrians fled in Aug

Over 100,000 Syrians fled in Aug

Figure is highest monthly total during the crisis, says world body

More than 100,000 Syrians sought refugee status during August in what the United Nations describes as an eye-popping 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 September 2, had fled for surrounding countries since the uprising began 17 months ago, the UN refugee agency said on Tuesday.

“If you do the math, it's quite an astonishing number," the agency's chief spokeswoman, Melissa Fleming, told reporters Tuesday at the UN's European headquarters in Geneva.

“And it points to a significant escalation in refugee movement and people seeking asylum, and probably points to a very precarious and violent situation inside the country.

The tide in people fleeing the civil war underscores the intensifying violence between President Bashar Assad’s regime and the armed anti-government groups. But even August’s figure, which is the highest monthly total so far, only counts refugees who are registered and those awaiting registration. Officials acknowledge the real number of Syrian refugees is likely way above 200,000 since tens of thousands are believed to have not yet registered with authorities.

UN agencies will likely come under pressure to revise up their $193 million estimate of the cost to help the refugees this year. That estimate in June was based on the expectation that there would be 185,000 refugees from Syria by the end of 2012. Of the accounted number of refugees, a little over 80,000 are in Turkey where the borders remain open.

Another 8,000 or so waiting to be processed at the border, Fleming said and the Turkish government is making plans to handle at least 150,000 refugees if the conflict keeps worsening.

In recent weeks there has been an influx from Aleppo and surrounding villages, alongside Idlib and Latakia, two areas where the fighting has been intense. Jordan has more than 77,000 Syrian refugees, but officials there are bracing for as many as 150,000 and are straining to build more camps to accommodate all those flowing in from Syria’s south, where the uprising began in March 2011. Lebanon has more than 59,000 refugees and Iraq nearly 18,700, according to the refugee agency.

Assad to back ‘impartial’ Red Cross

President Bashar al-Assad told Red Cross chief Peter Maurer today that he supports the work of the aid group in Syria so long as it remains “impartial and independent,” AFP reports from Damascus. “President Assad assured the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross that he welcomed the humanitarian operations carried out by the committee on the ground in Syria, as long as it remains impartial and independent,” state news agency SANA added. It said the ICRC chief welcomed “the cooperation shown by the Syrian government” in his meeting with Assad.

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