Friday 24 November 2017

Number of Syrian refugees in Turkey hits two million

Syrian migrants walk towards the Greek border on a road near Edirne, Turkey
Syrian migrants walk towards the Greek border on a road near Edirne, Turkey

Tom Miles

The numbers of Syrian refugees in Iraq and Lebanon fell in August, while the number in Turkey has risen to almost two million and asylum applications in Europe have leapt, the UN refugee agency said.

The Syrian refugee count in Turkey has jumped by more than 200,000 since June, having risen by just 14,000 in the previous three months, UNHCR spokeswoman Selin Unal said.

From Turkey, tens of thousands of refugees try to reach Europe by attempting the short sea crossing to Greece, though many have drowned on the way.

Ms Unal said Turkish authorities were trying to stop people reaching Europe. Syrians who were found making their way through Turkey were stopped and registered as refugees.

But she said it was impossible to say that the spike in refugee numbers in Turkey was due to people moving towards Europe. It could have been caused by Syrians who had been in Turkey for some time deciding to register as refugees.

In Lebanon, a recount of refugee numbers last month removed almost 60,000 from the tally of Syrians there, taking the total down to 1,113,941.

In Iraq, the decline in the numbers was small - 3,747 left while 3,151 arrived during August - leaving the population of Syrian refugees at 249,463. But any fall in refugee numbers is unusual because of the relentless outflow from Syria, where the war shows no sign of stopping after over four years.

Unlike Lebanon and Jordan, which have effectively closed their borders to new Syrian refugees, Iraq is still open to those fleeing from Isil or fighting between the government and opposing armed groups.

Many of those leaving Iraq told the UNHCR they were returning to Syria because of the high cost of living and lack of jobs in Iraq's Kurdistan region, or for family reunions and improving conditions in their former home regions.

However, there had been a sharp increase in people saying they were heading to Turkey and onwards to other European countries.

Irish Independent

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