Damascus: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is reportedly trying to prevent women and children from leaving the country.
According to reports from refugees and activists, the attempt appears to be well organised and is intended to prevent men from defecting or joining the opposition.
It has led to a build-up of thousands of refugees inside the borders with Lebanon and particularly Jordan, activists claimed.
“Most families that fled to Lebanon in recent weeks escaped Syria using smuggling routes,” The Telegraph quoted Burhan Abu Saleh, a spokesman for a volunteer Syrian refugee group, as saying.
“Some have relatives who are activists, and so would risk arrest at the official border, but many went and were turned back. Every day it is becoming more difficult,” Saleh added.
The paper also quoted Rana, a refugee in Lebanon, as saying that she had been forced to pay a bribe to cross the border.
“Security forces were attacking my neighbourhood in Aleppo. I fled with nothing but I had to pay 40 dollars to be allowed to cross,” she said.
Many opposition activists outside Syria revealed that their families inside the country have been taken away or beaten up in retaliation.
Tens of thousands of refugees are continuing to try to leave, despite the current supposed ceasefire and peace plan put forward by UN envoy Kofi Annan.