100,000 Syrians fled homeland last month
Number of refugees alluded to 5,000 killed in August - alone
The United nations refugee agency has said that more than 100,000 Syrians fled their homeland in August, the highest monthly total since the crisis began in March 2011 of last year. The mass exodus has greatly increased the number of Syrians living in neighboring countries. Altogether, the number of Syrian refugees has grown to 234,368 in the past 17 months.
According to the U.N., there are now more than 80,000 Syrian refugees in Turkey, where the borders remain open.
"If you do the math, it's quite an astonishing number," U.N. refugee agency spokeswoman Melissa Fleming told journalists. "And it points to a significant escalation in refugee movement and people seeking asylum, and probably points to a very precarious and violent situation inside the country," she said.
Making matters worse, the new refugee figures only count refugees who are registered and those awaiting registration. Officials acknowledge the real number of Syrian refugees is more likely far above 200,000. Tens of thousands are believed to have not yet contacted authorities.
Beginning with chiefly peaceful protests at the start of last year's Arab Spring, President Bashar al-Assad's regime has fueled the nation into a civil war that some estimate has killed at least 23,000 people.
"Prisoners on both sides are subject to harsh treatment and, often, torture," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a speech before the U.N. General Assembly. "There have been alarming reports of summary executions on both sides."
Assad has told the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross this week that the group is welcome to operate in Syria - as long as it remains "neutral and independent," state media reported.
ICRC spokeswoman Rabab al-Rafai did not give further details about Assad's meeting with Peter Maurer in Damascus but said the Red Cross chief also met Deputy Foreign Minister Faysal Mekdad and the head of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.
"President Assad confirmed Syria welcomes the humanitarian operations that the organization is conducting on the ground in Syria as long as it works in a neutral and independent way," the state-run SANA news agency quoted Assad as saying.
According to the U.N., there are now more than 80,000 Syrian refugees in Turkey, where the borders remain open. There is a backlog of 8,000 Syrians waiting to be processed at the border. Jordan has more than 77,000 Syrian refugees, while Lebanon has more than 59,000 and Iraq has nearly 18,700, according to the agency.
Making the situation increasingly dire is the fact that the fighting has spread to Syria's two largest cities - the capital of Damascus and the commercial hub of Aleppo.
© 2012, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Refugees, Syria, civil war, Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, United Nations
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