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Thursday 07th of March 2013 12:24:08 AM GMT

Syrian refugees reach one mn: UN

Geneva, March 7 (IANS/AKI) There are now one million Syrians in the Middle East region who have fled the civil war in their country, the UN refugee agency has said.

"With a million people in flight, millions more displaced internally, and thousands of people continuing to cross the border every day, Syria is spiralling towards full-scale disaster," said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres.

The number of people seeking haven in neighbouring countries has jumped by 400,000 since the beginning of the year, stretching the UN's and other aid agencies' resources to the limit.

Most Syrian refugees have fled to Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt, and around half are children mostly aged under 11, the UNHCR said.

"We are doing everything we can to help, but the international humanitarian response capacity is dangerously stretched. This tragedy has to be stopped," Guterres said.

Iraq, grappling with its own crisis with more than one million Iraqis homeless, has received over 100,000 Syrian refugees in the past year.

In Lebanon, the influx of almost a third of a million refugees since February 2012 has swollen the country's population by 10 percent.

The UN's emergency response plan for Syrian refugees currently lacked 75 percent of the funding required, the agency said.

Guterres will be travelling to the region to visit UNHCR operations in Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon.

Jordan's King Abdullah has called on other nations to help his country, Turkey and Lebanon to shoulder "the tremendous burden" of caring for the huge influx of people.

The conflict in Syria began in March 2011 with demonstrations against the government of President Bashar al-Assad. The UN says the conflict has left more than 70,000 people dead and two million internally displaced.

--IANS/AKI
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