GENEVA - Up to 30,000 Syrian refugees may have crossed into Lebanon in the past
48 hours, in what would be a sharp increase of people fleeing fighting in the
country, the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said on Friday.
borders remain open, it said, but the agency was not able to confirm reports
Syrian rebels took control of two major crossings on the border with Turkey and
the main Abu Kamal post on the border with Iraq on Thursday.
reports we are trying to verify that thousands of Syrians overnight and
yesterday crossed into Lebanon. So far reports vary between 8,500 and 30,000
people who may have crossed in the past 48 hours," Melissa Fleming, chief
spokeswoman of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told a news
briefing in Geneva.
"Borders remain open. People continue to arrive in
Turkey. People continue to arrive in Jordan. People continue to flood into
Lebanon and increasingly into Iraq," she said.
About 80 buses carrying
Iraqi refugees have crossed from Syria into Iraq in the last few days, Fleming
added. "We've also heard reports that two Iraqi government airplanes came to
Damascus to evacuate their citizens." In all, 120,000 Syrian refugees fleeing
the 16-month-old conflict had registered with the agency in Jordan, Iraq,
Lebanon and Turkey as of Wednesday, according to the UNHCR. However, many more
Syrians have entered these four neighboring countries without applying for
international protection, it says.
Panos Moumtzis, UNHCR regional refugee
coordinator, told reporters earlier this week an average of 700 Syrians were
fleeing their homeland each day, with the exodus rising to 1,000 on some
One million Syrians are also believed to be displaced inside the
country as of last week, Fleming said. The figure came from the Syrian Arab Red
Crescent whose previous estimate was that 500,000 were uprooted.
in Syria are also increasingly caught up in the violence, UNHCR said. "They are
receiving calls threatening them, accusing them of siding with the government,"
Fleming said, noting that some had received death threats.
family of seven was found shot dead in their apartment in Damascus last week,
while three other refugees were killed by gunfire, she said.
refugees in Syria - Iraqis, Somalis and Afghans - have fled their homes due to
the violence and "targeted threats" in recent days, she said.