More than 2,300 cross into Iraq fleeing Syria fighting

GENEVA (AFP) – The United Nations (UN) said yesterday that more than 2,300 people, mostly women and children, had fled fighting in northeastern Syria and crossed into Iraq in recent days.

“For the fourth consecutive day, UNHCR … has been receiving hundreds of refugees crossing the border into Iraq from northeast Syria,” UN refugee agency spokesman Andrej Mahecic told reporters in Geneva.

He first said “over 1,600 Syrian refugees have been transported from the border areas to Bardarash refugee camp”, about 150 kilometres east of the Syria-Iraq border.

But he later added that another 734 people had been registered crossing the border overnight.

The refugees, he said, had come mainly from Kurdish-majority towns in northern Syria, including Kobani, Amoda and Qamishly, and surrounding villages. Mahecic said the camp had “been prepped to receive the latest arrivals fleeing the fighting in northern Syria.”

A Syrian woman with her children, who were displaced by the Turkish military operation in northeastern Syria, wait to receive a tent and other aid supplies at the Bardarash refugee camp, north of Mosul, Iraq. PHOTO: AP

The UN currently estimates that around 166,000 people have been forced to flee their homes since Turkey launched its offensive in northeastern Syria on October 9.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor has meanwhile put the number far higher, saying more than 300,000 civilians had been displaced by the assault, calling it one of the largest upheavals since Syria’s civil war began in 2011.

The monitor said nearly 500 people have been killed including dozens of civilians, the majority on the Kurdish side.

Mahecic said that refugees arriving in Iraq had told UNHCR staff that “it took them days to get to the border as they fled amid shelling and fighting”.

“Most of the new arrivals are women, children and elderly,” he said, adding that some had “required psychosocial support”.

He said that teams on the ground were providing the refugees with hot meals, water and other basic daily items.

The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP), meanwhile said it had revised up plans for monthly food assistance in northeastern Syria, with the aim of supporting some 580,000 people in the region this month alone.

“WFP currently has in stock general food assistance rations sufficient for over 500,000 people and ready-to-eat rations sufficient for 132,000 people,” spokesman Herve Verhoosel said, adding that production of further stocks was ongoing.