The number of Syrian refugees has now exceeded 100,000 in Lebanon, the third country in the region to pass that mark, the United Nations refugee agency said Tuesday.
Thousands of Syrians continue to flee into neighboring countries as daily death tolls from the 19-month uprising often top 150 amid no prospects for an end to the conflict. An attempt by Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N. and Arab League envoy to Syria, to broker a cease-fire for the upcoming Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha is widely viewed as unlikely to succeed.
More than 100,000 Syrians have registered or are waiting for registration with the U.N. in Lebanon, but the actual number on the ground is likely much higher.
Activists in Lebanon say that some Syrians, most of whom are Sunni Muslims, have been wary of making their presence known in a country with ongoing Sunni-Shiite tensions. In August, a powerful Shiite Muslim family in the Bekaa Valley kidnapped dozens of Syrians in response to the abduction of a family member in nearby Syria.
Turkey and Jordan have more refugees than Lebanon, and Iraq is hosting a large population as well. There are more than 358,000 Syrian refugees in the region, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said.
The recent unrest in Lebanon, following a car bomb Friday that killed the nation’s intelligence chief, temporarily disrupted the registration of refugees.
More than 5,500 refugees registered last week with the U.N. refugee agency, and the longer Syrians remain in exile the more likely they are to seek help as savings are depleted. Many refugees fled home with few resources because work has been disrupted for more than a year in some areas of Syria.
Almost 70% of Syrian refugees are from the battered city of Homs, which remains besieged and under regular government shelling.
In Lebanon the situation is further exasperated because there are no refugee camps where housing and food are provided, so Syrians here must rely on their own resources.
“We are racing against time to ensure that all of these hundreds of thousands of refugees are protected from the winter cold,” Fleming said.