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MENAFN - Jordan Times - 29/03/2012

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(MENAFN - Jordan Times) Over 1,000 Syrians poured into Jordan on Wednesday, according to activists and security sources, in what marked the single largest influx of refugees from Syria since the beginning of the year-long crisis.

Over 1,000 Syrians fleeing a spike in violence in the cities of Homs and Hama crossed into Jordan illegally within a 12-hour period yesterday, according to the Kitab Al Sunna Society, one of several local NGOs that provide services to Syrian refugees.

"We have confirmed from several sources that over 1,000 Syrians were smuggled into Jordan today," Ziyad Hammad, Kitab Al Sunna director, told The Jordan Times.

According to a security source who confirmed the influx, security forces transferred the families to the Bashabsheh compound in Ramtha, a guarded housing complex designated for illegal arrivals, where they are currently undergoing background checks.

Hussein, an activist with the so-called local coordination committees currently residing in Jordan, said the exodus of some 200 families was coordinated between rebel forces and Jordanian security services, an allegation security sources did not confirm.

Minister of State for Media Affairs and Communications and Government Spokesperson Rakan Majali was unavailable for comment.

The flood of refugees comes amidst new restrictions imposed by Syrian border officials on Tuesday barring families, women and men under the age of 42 from entering Jordan.

Syrian nationals who meet the age requirements must receive prior approval from their country's interior ministry before travelling, and, according to refugees, pay a 350 "bribe" to border guards.

"Border officials are just turning away people by the hundreds," said Abu Hassan, a 60-year-old Damascus resident who crossed into Jordan on Tuesday.

A three-week old Syrian border clampdown that is designed to prevent potential rebels from fleeing to Jordan according to activists, has led to a rise in the number of Syrians entering the Kingdom illegally, which local aid organisations place at some 20 families a day.

Meanwhile, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is reporting a rise in registrations, with some 6,000 registered Syrian refugees and an additional 2,500 applications "in process" as of last week.

UN and humanitarian officials acknowledge that the number of registered refugees is unrepresentative of the total number of Syrians in need in Jordan, which local charitable organisations place at 30,000.

The rise in registrations comes amidst an 80 million aid appeal launched by the UNHCR earlier this month to assist Syrian refugees across the region, with 40 million of the projected funds to support the efforts of governmental and non-governmental organisations providing services to the most vulnerable of the some 100,000 Syrians who have fled to the Kingdom since March 2011.

Jordan follows an unannounced policy of offering refuge to all Syrians entering the Kingdom legally and illegally, including army defectors and political activists.


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