Syrian Refugees Entering Jordan in Record Numbers, U.N. Says

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GENEVA -- Syrians are fleeing into Jordan in record numbers to escape escalating violence and destruction in their country that is making it increasingly difficult for civilians to survive, the United Nations refugee agency said on Friday.

More than 4,000 Syrians arrived at a camp in Zaatari in northern Jordan on Thursday and another 2,000 people overnight, Melissa Fleming, the spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said.

The influx, consisting mainly of families led by women, brought to more than 30,000 the number of Syrians reaching Zaatari this month, close to double the number who arrived in December, Ms. Fleming said.

Many had come from the city and suburbs of Dara'a, Ms. Fleming said, and described a "real day-to-day struggle to survive" in the face of combat damage, the closure of medical facilities and shortages of food, water and electricity.

The Zaatari camp, which opened in July, already has some 65,000 people, and the agency said it was working with Jordanian authorities to open a second camp by the end of the month to initially accommodate 5,000 refugees and eventually serve some 30,000 people.

Many families arrive with young children or babies, and Zaatari has recorded seven to 10 babies born every day over the past month, according to Ms. Fleming. Many Syrians arrived sick because of the collapse of medical services. Three children died in the camp this week, including a two-day old infant, she said.

The refugee agency reported it was also working double shifts to try to register Syrians who are living elsewhere in Jordan and expected to have 50,000 on its books by the end of February, but it noted that Jordanian authorities say 300,000 Syrians have now entered the country.

Jordan's fears for the impact of this influx on its own stability surfaced last week when Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour said that if the Syrian government collapsed it would not allow refugees to cross its border, but that it would use its military to create safe havens inside Syria for those displaced by conflict.

The number of Syrian refugees in the region is approaching 700,000, the refugee agency said, with 221,000 registered as refugees in Lebanon, 156,000 in Turkey and 76,000 in Iraq.


This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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