ARBIL, Iraq: More than 50,000 Syrian refugees have crossed into Iraq's Kurdish region in less than two weeks, an official said Tuesday, as authorities rush to house them in more permanent camps.
A new wave of Syrians began pouring into northern Iraq in mid-August, seeking refuge from fighting between Kurdish forces and Islamist rebels, as well as from an economy in tatters.
"More than 50,000 refugees have come to the Kurdistan region of Iraq since August 15," Dindar Zebari, the deputy chief of the Iraqi Kurdish foreign affairs department.
He told AFP that the three-province autonomous region in northern Iraq was working to open new camps and meet the needs of refugees.
Zebari said refugees were still crossing from Syria, but "the number is different from one day to another because these border (points) are illegal and are open for humanitarian purposes."
The U.N. refugee agency's chief, meanwhile, is due to visit multiple refugee camps in Iraqi Kurdistan on Thursday with officials from the U.N. and World Food Programme, a spokeswoman said.
Syrian war refugees' access to Iraq has been erratic, with local political tensions and fears of a spillover of the conflict leading Iraqi Kurdistan authorities to shut the border in May.
More than 200,000 Syrians, predominantly Kurds, have escaped to Iraqi Kurdistan during the 29-months-long conflict in their homeland.
Over 1.9 million Syrians in total have fled their homeland, mostly to neighbouring Arab states and Turkey, since the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad erupted in 2011.