100,000 Syrian refugees fled country in August alone


A TOTAL of 100,000 Syrian refugees fled their country during August, according to the UN High Commission for Refugees, the highest monthly total since the revolt began 18 months ago.

Agency spokeswoman Melissa Fleming put the full number of Syrian refugees at 234,368, which means an increase of 43 per cent during August alone. “When you do the math, it’s quite an astonishing number,” she said.

Turkey says it has given shelter to 80,000 Syrians while Jordan says 183,000 have entered the kingdom. Iraq says it has received 18,000 and Lebanon 59,000. Some figures include Syrians not registered with the UN.

Eurostat reported that in the first half of this year at least 12,325 Syrians applied for asylum in European countries. Unknown numbers of Syrians are trying to reach Europe along smuggling routes.

The Red Crescent puts the number of internally displaced at one to 1½ million people while a further million could require assistance because of the collapse of public utilities and food distribution networks in areas devastated by fighting.

The new refugee figures were made public as Peter Maurer, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, met Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to discuss the growing humanitarian crisis in the country. The two men reportedly discussed Aleppo, where essential supplies are low in conflicted quarters.

Red Cross spokeswoman Rabab Rifai said Mr Maurer’s mission will “focus on increased needs and remind belligerents of their obligation under international law” to protect civilians. While he could make a “field trip” he is not expected to meet representatives of the opposition, she said.

Syrian state news agency Sana reported that president Assad “assured [Mr Maurer] that he welcomed the humanitarian operations carried out by the committee as long as it remains impartial and independent”. It said Mr Maurer welcomed the government’s co- operation and praised “the bridges of trust that have been built between the two parties”.

The Red Crescent and its local partner, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, have provided 180,000 people with food in the most turbulent areas of Syria since mid-July. They have delivered relief supplies to more than 800,000 and provided clean water to more than a million people.

While the normal two years of service by conscripts in the Syrian army have been extended indefinitely because of the conflict, it is reported that many of the thousands of reservists being called up are not reporting for duty. Active personnel number 220,000 and reservists 280,000. It is estimated that the current figure for those in service is about 300,000.

Opposition sources estimate that between 20,000 and 25,000 people have been killed during the troubles, between 6,500 and 8,000 of them soldiers or members of the security forces.

The head of the expatriate opposition Syrian National Council, Abdel Basset Sieda, told a gathering of opposition representatives and diplomats in Berlin that once the conflict ends Syria will need “a Marshall-style plan to ensure it stands on solid financial and economic ground”. Unless there was a comprehensive development there could be growth of all kinds of extremism in the region, he warned.