30,000 Syrians have now fled into northern Iraq

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Thousands of Syrians streamed across a bridge over the Tigris River, entering Iraq on Thursday. [Photo: UNHCR/G.Gubaeva]

The influx of Syrians into Iraq's Kurdistan region continues, with the number of refugees who have crossed the border since Thursday last week now estimated to have surpassed the 30,000 mark, according to the United Nations Refugee agency (UNHCR).

A major humanitarian operation is underway in the region, with United Nations aid agencies sending truck loads of food, shelter and sanitation materials to the refugees.

UNHCR says it was in the process of establishing transit camps for the new arrivals as the only refugee camp in the region which was meant to house only 15,000 people is currently overcrowded with more than 55,000 refugees.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says it has to date transported 18,500 refugees to three transit facilities located away from the border areas.

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) says as many as 2,100 children crossed the border yesterday, many of them suffering from dehydration and exhaustion after walking for up to 5 hours to reach the border.

Dan McNorton is UNHCR's spokesperson in Geneva.

"This new exodus from Syria is among the largest we have so far seen during the conflict, which is now into its third year. As well as people who told us they were fleeing recent bombings, others say they were escaping fighting and tension amongst various factions on the ground. Also cited was the collapse of the economy due to war and the resulting difficulties in caring for their families. As of this morning, a further 2000-3000 people were reported waiting close to the Syrian side of the border. In response to the influx UNHCR and partner agency teams have erected shelters to provide shade. Water and food distributions have also been set up at the crossing points. The International Organization for Migration and the Kurdistan Regional Government have provided buses and trucks to move the thousands of people onwards from the border zone deeper into Iraq." 

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is sending to northern Iraq family food rations enough to feed 185,000 people for one month.

Patrick Maigua, United Nations Radio, Geneva.

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