* EU considers Syrian refugee protection
* UNHCR says displaced reaches 115,000
* EU wants to enhance aid to countries receiving refugees
NICOSIA, July 23 The number of Syrian refugees
fleeing fighting in their country has reached 115,000 and aid
agencies must develop a plan to deal with the growing
humanitarian emergency, EU officials said on Monday.
"It's a horrible situation there, changing by the hour,"
Ceclia Malmstrom. European Union Commissioner for Home Affairs,
told journalists following a meeting of aid officials in Cyprus.
Cyprus, which holds the rotating six month EU presidency, is
the closest member state to Syria, separated by a 170 km stretch
European Justice and Home Affairs Ministers, meeting at an
informal session, heard from United Nations aid agency UNHCR
that 115,000 Syrians had already fled to Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon
In consultation with the EU, Cyprus has drafted contingency
plans to assist in the evacuation of up to 200,000 people - EU
passport holders and third-country nationals - as a worst case
scenario, officials said.
Cypriot officials have stressed the contingency planning
would only be to facilitate the repatriation of people fleeing
violence, and not for admitting Syrian refugees.
Separately, Malmstrom said EU ministers had discussed what
she said was establishing a "special version of a regional
protection programme" which would focus on humanitarian
assistance, return of displaced persons, integration and
"This was an informal meeting, the first time in this
context that we discussed the horrible situation in Syria, so
it was more exploratory," she told a news conference.
"This is something we are looking at and we will come back
to it because, unfortunately, the conflict is not likely to
cease in the coming weeks," she said.
According to UNHCR assessments, 42,000 Syrians have fled to
Turkey, between 30,000 and 34,000 each to Jordan and Lebanon and
8,000 to Iraq, Eleni Mavrou, Cyprus's Interior Minister, said.
(Editing by Michael Roddy)