People flee Syria in record numbers

DAMASCUS - More than 100,000 Syrians fled their country in August, the UN says - the highest monthly number of refugees since the conflict began in March 2011.

In one month, the UN refugee agency says the total number of people to have left almost doubled to 235,200.

"This is a significant escalation in refugee movement," chief spokesperson Melissa Fleming said.

The rising numbers emerged as Red Cross head Peter Maurer held talks on Syria's aid crisis with President Assad.

August was arguably Syria's most violent month yet - as well bringing its biggest flight of refugees - with the pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reporting more than 5,000 deaths.

Last week alone, the UN children's fund estimated that 1,600 people died.

Red Cross head Peter Maurer (R) with President Bashar al-Assad (Syrian TV pictures 4 Sept 2012) International Red Cross head Peter Maurer had "positive" talks with

Mr Maurer spent less than an hour with the Syrian leader and an International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) spokesman described the meeting as "positive".

Syrian state television said that President Assad supported the ICRC's humanitarian work in Syria as long as it remained "independent and impartial".

ICRC spokeswoman Cecilia Goin told the BBC that the organisation was planning to "scale up its distribution" of food parcels and other aid across Syria.

"The tense and volatile situation is growing. Unfortunately we are not able to help those people in need in those places where fighting is taking place." she said.

In Syria's second city Aleppo supplies are said to be dwindling, with access to parts of the city described as impossible.

Five people were said to have been killed and many others wounded in the northern province on Tuesday, a day after at least 25 deaths were reported inMore than 100,000 Syrians fled their country in August, the UN says - the highest monthly number of refugees since the conflict began in March 2011.

In one month, the UN refugee agency says the total number of people to have left almost doubled to 235,200.

"This is a significant escalation in refugee movement," chief spokesperson Melissa Fleming said.

The rising numbers emerged as Red Cross head Peter Maurer held talks on Syria's aid crisis with President Assad.

August was arguably Syria's most violent month yet - as well bringing its biggest flight of refugees - with the pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reporting more than 5,000 deaths.

Last week alone, the UN children's fund estimated that 1,600 people died.

Red Cross head Peter Maurer (R) with President Bashar al-Assad (Syrian TV pictures 4 Sept 2012) International Red Cross head Peter Maurer had "positive" talks with President Assad in Damascus

Mr Maurer spent less than an hour with the Syrian leader and an International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) spokesman described the meeting as "positive".

Syrian state television said that President Assad supported the ICRC's humanitarian work in Syria as long as it remained "independent and impartial".

ICRC spokeswoman Cecilia Goin told the BBC that the organisation was planning to "scale up its distribution" of food parcels and other aid across Syria.

"The tense and volatile situation is growing. Unfortunately we are not able to help those people in need in those places where fighting is taking place." she said.

In Syria's second city Aleppo supplies are said to be dwindling, with access to parts of the city described as impossible.

Five people were said to have been killed and many others wounded in the northern province on Tuesday, a day after at least 25 deaths were reported in air strikes the day before.

A Syrian army commander has reportedly vowed to recapture the city in 10 days although a Free Syrian Army commander insisted on Tuesday that his forces were "in control of the ground battle".
'Precarious'

The escalating fighting in Aleppo and earlier in Damascus has intensified the refugee crisis in Syria. In August, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated that 30,000 people had fled to Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan in the space of a week.

The UNHCR said the total number of refugees from Syria who had either been registered or were awaiting registration was now 235,300, with 103,416 people seeking asylum in August alone.

But the unregistered numbers that have entered countries bordering Syria are thought to be even higher.

Turkey says it has taken in more than 80,000 people and another 8,000 are waiting at the Syrian border. Media reports say another 10,000 Syrians crossed the border without being registered as refugees and are having difficulty with housing.

According to the Jordanian government, up to 183,000 Syrians have entered the country since the uprising began and refugees are arriving at a rate of around 1,000 a day.

The UN says the situation is precarious, with aid agencies struggling to prepare camps for them.

The number of Syrians crossing into Iraq has also risen to around 500 a day, the UN says, compared with 500 a week in the first three weeks of August.

Lebanon too is struggling to provide shelter for the increased numbers of refugees. Many families who were staying in schools are now under pressure to move out because of the start of term.

A day after he told the BBC of the "nearly impossible" task facing him, new UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is to make a statement to the UN General Assembly before his first visit to President Assad in Damascus at the weekend.

China and Russia have both vetoed a succession of proposed UN Security Council resolutions on Syria and there is little sign of any agreement emerging on the next course of diplomatic progress.

The opposition Syrian National Council has reiterated its call for urgent international military intervention but China has warned that it opposes any such step.

Hours before US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was due for talks in Beijing, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman stressed the need for a political solution.

"The situation is worsening, but the worse the situation, the more unity is needed," Hong Lei was reported as telling journalists, according to Reuters news agency. air strikes the day before.

A Syrian army commander has reportedly vowed to recapture the city in 10 days although a Free Syrian Army commander insisted on Tuesday that his forces were "in control of the ground battle".
'Precarious'

The escalating fighting in Aleppo and earlier in Damascus has intensified the refugee crisis in Syria. In August, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated that 30,000 people had fled to Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan in the space of a week.

The UNHCR said the total number of refugees from Syria who had either been registered or were awaiting registration was now 235,300, with 103,416 people seeking asylum in August alone.

But the unregistered numbers that have entered countries bordering Syria are thought to be even higher.

Turkey says it has taken in more than 80,000 people and another 8,000 are waiting at the Syrian border. Media reports say another 10,000 Syrians crossed the border without being registered as refugees and are having difficulty with housing.

According to the Jordanian government, up to 183,000 Syrians have entered the country since the uprising began and refugees are arriving at a rate of around 1,000 a day.

The UN says the situation is precarious, with aid agencies struggling to prepare camps for them.

The number of Syrians crossing into Iraq has also risen to around 500 a day, the UN says, compared with 500 a week in the first three weeks of August.

Lebanon too is struggling to provide shelter for the increased numbers of refugees. Many families who were staying in schools are now under pressure to move out because of the start of term.

A day after he told the BBC of the "nearly impossible" task facing him, new UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is to make a statement to the UN General Assembly before his first visit to President Assad in Damascus at the weekend.

China and Russia have both vetoed a succession of proposed UN Security Council resolutions on Syria and there is little sign of any agreement emerging on the next course of diplomatic progress.

The opposition Syrian National Council has reiterated its call for urgent international military intervention but China has warned that it opposes any such step.

Hours before US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was due for talks in Beijing, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman stressed the need for a political solution.

"The situation is worsening, but the worse the situation, the more unity is needed," Hong Lei was reported as telling journalists, according to Reuters news agency.

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