17 April 2014, Thursday
Today's Zaman

UNHCR: Thousands of Syrians trapped in Aleppo

31 July 2012, Tuesday /REUTERS
Battles between the Syrian army and rebels in Aleppo have forced many terrified civilians to flee the city by perilous routes or take refuge in safer areas, a United Nations official said on Tuesday.

"Thousands of frightened residents are seeking shelter in schools, mosques and public buildings," said Melissa Fleming, spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

"These are people that haven't fled the city as they haven't had the means or feel it is too dangerous to make that journey and we are getting indications that the journey is fraught with armed gangs and road blocks blocking the way," she said.

About 7,000 have taken refuge in university dormitories and many more are camped out in 32 schools, each housing 250-350 people, Fleming told a news conference. Her figures suggest a total of 15,000 to 18,000 displaced within Aleppo.

Fighting has raged in the city of 2.5 million for a week. Helicopters fired heavy machineguns at eastern districts on Tuesday, a Reuters reporter in Aleppo said.

U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said on Sunday about 200,000 people had fled Aleppo and surrounding areas over the weekend, citing an estimate from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.

But that has not produced a flood of refugees into nearby Turkey, about 50 km (30 miles) from Aleppo, with only 2,000 crossing the border in the past four days, the UNHCR said.

"Many report difficulties along the route, including snipers and road blocks, which may be hindering others from making the journey," the agency said.

Thousands of Iraqi refugees in Syria are heading home to escape the violence now convulsing the country where they found sanctuary following the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. The UNHCR said 20,000 had returned to Iraq in the past 10 days.

Many of the Iraqis left from Aleppo, according to the International Organisation for Migration, which said more than 2,800 Syrians had also sought refuge in Iraq, a journey that returnees say costs about $300 by taxi or $100 by bus.

Iraq now hosts more than 12,000 Syrian refugees, far fewer than the more than 30,000 registered in each of Lebanon and Jordan, and more than 44,000 in Turkey, part of an overall total of 129,000 Syrians who have registered with UNHCR.

The total number of Syrians who have quit the country is far higher, with an estimated 150,000 in Jordan alone. The IOM is expanding Jordan's Zaatari camp, which can hold 5,000 refugees to enable it to take 150,000, in case of a mass exodus.

Between 10,000 and 25,000 Syrians have fled to Algeria, where they do not require visas, Fleming said, citing information from the Algerian government. But on 70 of them have contacted the UNHCR in the North African country.

A UN official said most of those in Algeria were from Damascus and, with flights out of Syria becoming rarer, many had flown from Beirut or Amman after crossing the border.

The UNHCR has registered another 1,305 Syrian refugees in Egypt and 400 in Morocco.

UN agencies bracing for an exodus from Syria doubled the size of their humanitarian aid plan a month ago to cater for 185,000 refugees by the end of 2012.

WORLD  Other Titles
Divers search for hundreds still missing in Korean ferry disaster
Ex-president apologizes for UNSC refusal to stop Rwanda genocide
Saudi conservatives protest Westernisation
Algerians trickle to polls in presidential vote
Search for Malaysia Airlines jet refocuses on drone scans of seafloor
Australian premier's resignation as a sign of less, not more, corruption
UK PM's former media aide tells court he heard hacked messages
Post, Guardian win Pulitzers for NSA revelations
Nigeria vows to protect May's ‘African Davos' in bomb-hit capital
Berlusconi ordered to do community service for tax conviction
Doctor to be tried in Britain's first female genital mutilation court case
Prosecutor wraps up Oscar Pistorius' grilling in murder trial
Syria opposition claims has evidence of chlorine gas attack
Egypt woman prof. targets young in bid to save Brotherhood
China seizes more than 10,000 illegal guns in crackdown
Macedonians vote for new president as general election nears
Complaints of serious fraud in Afghan polls exceed total in 2009
Indonesian parties in pact, clear way for top presidential candidate
UN climate panel warns emissions rising, blurs reason
Biden to visit Kiev to show US support for Ukraine unity
Iran rejects naming new United Nations envoy after US refusal
Death toll in fighting between Syrian rivals rises to 68
Venezuelan leader meets opposition
Egyptian police say kill two Brotherhood members in shootout
Murdered girl's mom says News of the World was force for good