60,000 Syrian Kurds enter Turkey: Deputy PM
Thousands of Kurds massed on the Turkish border after ISIL captured around 20 villages in northern Syria’s Kobane region. DHA photoSome 60,000 Syrian Kurds fleeing advancing Islamic State and Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants have poured across the border into Turkey since Ankara opened up its southern frontier on Sept. 19, the country’s deputy prime minister has said.
"As of now, 45,000 Syrian Kurds have have crossed the border and entered Turkish soil from eight entrance points," Numan Kurtulmuş told reporters on Sept. 20.
"No country in the world can take in 45,000 refugees in one night, bring them here unharmed and find them a shelter without a problem. This proves how powerful Turkey is," he added.
Kurtulmuş updated the figure later in the day. '"This is a source of pride for Turkey. Even much richer countries cannot admit 60,000 people in one day," he said, according to Anadolu Agency.
Syrian Kurds have been massing since Thursday on the other side of the border as the ISIL extremists seized dozens of villages in a lightning offensive as they close in on the strategic Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, known to the Kurds as Kobane.
Turkey opened its border on Friday after new fighting near Kobane prompted a mass exodus of residents.
Ankara, which has given shelter to some 1.5 million refugees from the Syrian conflict, has been refusing to accept any more for fear of being overwhelmed.
On Sept. 20, Ankara announced the 49 of its nationals that the IS extremists seized from its consulate in Mosul in June had been released and were back in Turkey.
Some 4,000 Syrian Kurds - mostly women, children and elderly people - crossed to the southern Turkish town of Dikmetas on Friday.
"We have opened our doors because we had to," Kurtulmus said, adding that Turkey was ready to cope with an even larger refugee influx. "We are ready for both the worst case and the best case scenario," he said.
UNHCR on Sept. 19 welcomed "Turkey’s prompt action in ensuring safe haven for and extending support to Syrian-Kurdish civilians seeking to cross its borders."
"It is of life-saving importance, that these people have access to safe haven," said Amin Awad, Director of UNHCR’s Middle East and North Africa Bureau. "Its actions ... were right and humane in a very difficult situation."