Oncupinar (Turkey): Some 100,000 Syrian refugees are being looked after in camps inside Syria close to the Turkish border, including 35,000 who this month fled a Russian-backed regime offensive in northern Aleppo province, a top Turkish official said today. Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan, whose country has come under increasing pressure to open its border to people fleeing the violence, said the refugees were being accommodated in nine camps just across the border with Syria.
“There are nine camps on the other side of the border accommodating 100,000 people including the 30-35,000 new arrivals,” Akdogan told reporters at Oncupinar border crossing in televised comments. He added that a tenth camp was being built three kilometres (1.85 miles) inside Syria. The refugees are looked after by organisations such as Turkey’s emergency agency AFAD, the pro-government aid group Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) as well as international organisations.
Up to 31,000 people have fled Aleppo and surrounding areas since last week, as government forces backed by Russian warplanes press an offensive that threatens to encircle the rebel-held eastern part of Syria’s second city. Thousands came right up to the Turkish border in the hope that Turkey would open the gates and allow them inside. But the Turkish authorities only allowed wounded victims through
Akdogan said that in contrast to the early days of the offensive there was no longer a major-build up of refugees on the frontier, with those in need now accommodated in the camps. “Right now there is no accumulation (of refugees) on the border, no big masses trying to cross the border,” he said.
The United Nations and the European Union have urged Turkey to let in refugees fleeing the government onslaught. But Turkey, already hosting 2.7 million Syrian refugees, has so far refused to let the new wave into the country, providing humanitarian assistance across the border.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had reacted furiously to the international pressure, even threatening to send the refugees into EU states. “No one should dare teach Turkey a lesson on humanity,” said Akdogan, a close ally of Erdogan.”Turkey has been abandoned in the face of this human tragedy,” he said. “We are opening our borders to those escaping from death. We call on the West to open its heart to the refugees.”