Lebanon News

UNHCR grappling with influx of Syrian refugees

Syrian refugees receive fans and food aid distributed by the "Global Campaign to support the Syrian People," in the southern city of Sidon, Monday, July 9, 2012. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)

BEIRUT: Up to 30,000 Syrian refugees may have crossed into Lebanon in the past 48 hours to escape fighting in their country, the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said Friday.

According to Melissa Fleming, chief spokeswoman of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva, "We have 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 may have crossed in the past 48 hours.

“Borders remain open ... people continue to flood into Lebanon," she added.

A source in Lebanon’s General Security said Thursday that over 30,000 Syrians had streamed across the Masnaa border over the previous 48 hours, after a surge in fighting in Damascus.

In Beirut, UNHCR spokeswoman Dana Sleiman said that the 30,000 figure could not yet be verified.

“It’s not that we don’t believe it’s this high, but we haven’t checked yet. We are still verifying these numbers, and over the next few days we should have a clearer image,” she told The Daily Star Friday.

“We have people on the border now, but obviously it’s a time-consuming task,” she added.

“We’re in contact with the local authorities, and we are trying to assist people, especially the most vulnerable.”

The UNHCR and partners are already assisting around 30,000 displaced Syrians within Lebanon, although some people involved in the matter, including the government’s own High Relief Committee, had put the total figure at around 60,000 before this latest surge.

Thursday is believed to have been the deadliest day yet in the uprising against the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, which began last March. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Friday that over 300 people were killed across the country Thursday.

Back in Geneva, Fleming also said at her news briefing that one million Syrians are also believed to be internally displaced within the country as of last week. The figure came from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, which had previously estimated that 500,000 had been uprooted.





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