BAGHDAD — In a mass exodus, about 30,000 Syrians have fled their homeland's bloody civil war and crossed over into neighboring Iraq's northern self-ruled Kurdish region over the past five days, the U.N. refugee agency said Monday.
The influx of people, many of whom are Syrian Kurds seeking refuge from escalating violence in northeastern Syria, has put severe strain on the resources of aid agencies as well as Iraqi Kurdistan's regional government.
"Syrian refugees are still pouring into Iraq's northern Kurdish region in huge numbers and most of them are women and children. The reason behind this sudden flow is still not clear," said Youssef Mahmoud, a spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency in Iraq's Kurdish region.
"Today, some 3,000 Syrian refugees crossed the borders and that has brought the number to around 30,000 refugees since Thursday," he said, adding that the latest wave has raised the number of Syrian refugees in the Kurdish region to about 195,000.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees has set up an emergency transit camp in Irbil, the capital of Iraq's Kurdish autonomous region, to house some of the new arrivals. Some of the refugees were reportedly staying in mosques or with family or friends who live in the area, according to the agency.