More than 12,000 Syrians fleeing the violence in their home country have sought refuge in Algeria, a source close to the Interior Ministry said on Sunday.
The authorities have decided to “take charge of Syrians who have sought refuge in Algeria, and whose number is estimated officially at 12,000,” the source told AFP, although Syrian opposition sources put the number at up to 20,000.
Algiers is considering using schools that are closed for the summer to house Syrians who are currently in the capital.
Syrian opposition sources inside Algeria say many of their countrymen are also present in other towns in the North African nation, and say they number between 18,000 and 20,000.
Some newspapers have reported as many as 23,000 Syrians in the country, but such figures are hard to verify since they include only arrivals, and do not include those leaving later.
A number of Syrians are also thought to have arrived in Algeria from Lebanon and Jordan, which adjoin the violence-ridden state where a nearly 17-month-long uprising has cost the lives of more than 20,000 people, according to activists.
The large number of Syrians in Algeria may be attributed to the lack of visa requirements between the two countries.
Syria has sought to rein in the exodus by reducing the number of weekly Air Algerie flights between Damascus and Algiers from three to one.
Passengers must also have return tickets and show proof of where they will stay in Algeria before being allowed to board flights.
Last week, the Foreign Ministry in Algiers estimated that around 1,000 Algerian families living in Syria had fled the violence there.