There could be as many as 700,000 refugees from Syria by the end of the year, UN refugee agency UNHCR warned on Thursday.
Panos Moumtzis, the agency’s regional coordinator for Syria, said 2,000 to 3,000 people are fleeing daily into neighboring countries, often “arriving with only the clothes on their backs.”
There are currently thought to be 294,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey, countries Moumtzis praised for having "set the example, keeping their borders open for Syrians fleeing violence.” The exodus has increased sharply since March this year, when the UN said that 41,500 Syrian refugees, mainly women and children, were living in neighboring countries.
Representatives of western countries have called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, as a way of ending the violence that has been ongoing since March 2011. Russia and China meanwhile warn that intervention in the country is only likely to exacerbate the conflict.
The Syrian authorities claim that they are dealing with well-armed fighters who enjoy external support.