Free Syrian Army fighters carry their weapons and sit in cars and pick-up trucks near the frontline in the refugee camp of Yarmouk, near Damascus, yesterday.
GENEVA: The government of Iraqi Kurdistan has set an entry quota of 3,000 refugees a day to cope with an influx of Kurds fleeing the civil war in Syria, but there are signs many more are still coming in, aid agencies said yesterday.
About 35,000 refugees, believed to be mainly Syrian Kurds, have entered Iraq since last Thursday, including an estimated 5,100, well over the cap, yesterday, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said.
UNHCR officials told an internal UN meeting in Baghdad on Monday that up to 100,000 Syrian refugees could be expected to flee to Iraq within the next month, if the current pace continued, UN sources said.
Fleeing bombardments and sectarian tensions in parts of northern Syria including Aleppo and Efrin, they arrive exhausted, with many children dehydrated from walking in the scorching heat.
“The Kurdistan regional government authorities have put a daily quota for those refugees who will be allowed in,” Jumbe Omari Jumbe of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) told reporters in Geneva.
IOM said around 5,000 refugees crossed on Monday, again exceeding the cap.
A Western diplomat in Geneva said it was not clear how many more refugees might be on their way, adding: “We are not sure whether there is an actual quota policy or whether it is a practical ability to absorb them.”
Jumbe said the Kurds feared attacks by various armed rebel groups including Al Nusra, an Islamist militia linked to Al Qaeda.
Russia said yesterday extremist violence and economic troubles worsened by Western sanctions were to blame for the exodus since the conflict began in March 2011, and that Syrians streaming into northern Iraq were fleeing “terrorist groups”.
“Moscow is deeply concerned about the worsening of the refugee situation,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Referring to Syrian Kurds who have fled to northern Iraq in recent days, it said: “Thousands of people, many of them women and children, are abandoning their homes to save themselves from the brutality of fighters from the terrorist groups Al Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant”.
“This new exodus from Syria is among the largest we have seen in the conflict,” UNHCR spokesman Dan McNorton said.
“Those people crossing this morning ... are drained, they are hot and thirsty, they are walking on a long dirt road as we speak in a long line,” he said.