UN Warns Syrian Refugees May Reach 700,000, Calls for Donations

The number of Syrian refugees in neighboring countries could more than double to 700,000 by the end of this year, the United Nations refugee agency said.

There are 294,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey, and as many as 3,000 more are fleeing every day, the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees said on its website today. It called on donors for $295 million in extra funding.

Syrian rebels have been fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad since March last year, in a conflict that has left at least 30,000 people dead, according to estimates by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

At least 22 people have been killed across the country today, the Local Coordination Committees in Syria said, after 343 deaths yesterday, one of the highest tolls since the uprising began last year.

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Miqati said in an interview with Al Arabiya television yesterday that there are more than 220,000 Syrians in Lebanon, of whom 66,000 have registered with international groups as refugees in need of assistance.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Kanal 7 television late yesterday that his country has a total capacity for 100,000 people and was already sheltering nearly 90,000.

“Many refugees are arriving with only the clothes on their backs,” Panos Moumtzis, the group’s regional coordinator for Syrian Refugees, said on the website. “Some have been displaced many times before leaving Syria. They need humanitarian assistance from day one.”

The European Commission said today that the plight of the refugees could worsen by winter. It said international organizations agreed that “the most pressing priorities ahead are to increase humanitarian aid and provide medicines, blankets, stoves, heating fuel and other non-food items.”

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