Syrian migrants heading to Europe (illustration)
Syrian migrants heading to Europe (illustration)Stoyan Nenov, Reuters

More than 20% of Syria's Palestinian Arabs have fled the country and its five-year war, the head of the UN agency established for "Palestinian refugees" said on Thursday.

"Before the war, there were 560,000 Palestine refugees. We estimate that currently about 110,000 to 120,000 have left the country," UNRWA chief Pierre Krahenbuhl said on a visit to Damascus.

"There are about 45,000 who went to Lebanon, 15,000 to Jordan," he said.

"The others - therefore almost half of those who have left - have traveled, we presume, through Turkey and then to a variety of other countries."

"Some of them will be in Europe. We know of Palestine refugees who have reached parts of Asia. We know of some who have reached Latin America."

Syria is home to 12 "refugee camps," three of them unofficial, according to UNRWA.

Before the war, some 160,000 mostly Palestinians and Syrians lived in the district of Yarmouk in southern Damascus.

But the once thriving suburb has been devastated by conflict since late 2012 and UNRWA cannot access the camp to distribute aid to some 6,000 remaining residents.

"UNRWA will not give up its efforts to try to find ways to have this type of access in the future but in the meantime we are...concentrated on providing the assistance that we can in the neighborhoods directly beside Yarmouk," Krahenbuhl said.

"The situation for Palestine refugees and civilians inside Yarmouk remains extremely desperate - very, very difficult."

Last month, the Islamic State group had almost evicted rival Al Qaeda jihadists from Yarmouk, according to a Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) official.

UNRWA was established only to deal with the roughly 800,000 Arabs who left Israel during the 1948 War of Independence and their now roughly 5 million descendants. Recently the "refugees" have been holding mass protests in Judea and Samaria as well as Lebanon over their various perks being altered.

No UN body was formed to help the 850,000 Jewish refugees who were violently forced from Arab countries following the establishment of the modern Jewish state. In that expulsion ancient Jewish communities, some dating back to Temple times, were forcibly uprooted and in the process had their fortunes stolen.

UNRWA has also been exposed as actively inciting terrorism, and it was revealed as collaborating with Hamas in Gaza during 2014 Operation Protective Edge when missiles were stored in UNRWA facilities.

AFP contributed to this report.