Half a million displaced in Syria; refugee numbers rise-U.N.


The estimated number of internally displaced Syrians has more than doubled to 500,000 since an April 12 ceasefire and the flow of refugees abroad has gathered pace again, U.N. officials said on Tuesday.

The number of internally displaced people, a Syrian Arab Red Crescent estimate given to the U.N., was about 200,000 before the peace deal which both sides have broken.

The number of refugees being assisted by the U.N. in four neighboring countries has risen by a third in the same period to 73,000, although it slowed temporarily in the days after the ceasefire and some refugees to Turkey even returned to Syria.

Panos Moumtzis, the U.N.’s refugee coordinator for the region, said Syrians were still leaving for Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq, in numbers that ebbed and flowed with the level of violence within the country.

“If there is instability and people are afraid then immediately we see within 24-48 hours an increased wave of people crossing the border,” Moumtzis told Reuters in Geneva.

“That is a direct correlation and every time an event takes place we see the reaction of people getting scared and picking up their families and leaving in any way they can get across the border,” he said.

“The events of this weekend of course worried us because instability results in an increased number of people crossing,” he said, referring to a massacre of at least 108 people, almost half of them children, in the town of Houla.

The U.N. will hold its third Syrian humanitarian forum on June 5, where U.N. officials, diplomats and aid agencies will discuss humanitarian needs and access which the government has promised to provide as part of the peace plan.

An earlier forum helped galvanize the U.N.’s response to the refugee crisis. This one will focus more on the situation inside Syria, Moumtzis said.