Ankara on alert as 200,000 Kurds arrive

Ankara on alert as 200,000 Kurds arrive

Fevzi Kızılkoyun ANKARA
Ankara on alert as 200,000 Kurds arrive

A Syrian Kurdish refugee holds a baby as she waits after crossing the border near the southeastern Turkish town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, on September 21, 2014. AFP Photo

The unprecedented, rapid refugee influx of 200,000 Syrian Kurds and the deteriorating security conditions in the region after the rapid advance of jihadists has put Ankara on full alert.

Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş said some 130,000 Syrian refugees have en-tered Turkey in the past four days, warning that the number could rise further as the Islam-ic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) press ahead with an onslaught on Kobane, which is di-rectly across from Şanlıurfa’s Suruç district. However, the unofficial figures suggest a higher number of 200,000, including people who crossed during the first days of the clashes be-tween Syrian Kurds from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the jihadists. With the lat-est exodus, the number of the total Syrians who have crossed into Turkey has reached 1,570,000, figures show.

“I hope that we are not faced with a more populous refugee wave, but if we are, we have taken our precautions,” Kurtulmuş said Sept. 22. “A refugee wave that can be expressed by hundreds of thousands is a possibility.”

The government has stepped up measures to cope with the huge influx of refugees. Au-thorities have established a checkpoint in Yumurtalık region to stop the entrance of mili-tants from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and radicals from other militant groups. Syrians waiting near the border are first transferred to checkpoints by buses before undergoing a security check.

After the security and health checkups, they were transferred to a registration center es-tablished near the Mürşitpınar Border Gate in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa. The registered refugees were then transferred to temporary housing centers. The ones who have relatives in Turkey are allowed to leave the centers, where they been provided with water and food.

“The total population of the said [Kobane] region is over 400,000. We think they have been dispersed to other areas within Syria,” Kurtulmuş said, adding that they had first planned to accommodate the new influx of Syrians running away from militants on the Syr-ian side of the border and provide them with humanitarian assistance there.

“But, the humanitarian risks they are facing led us to open the border crossing. I don’t mean the border gate. Those people were allowed into Turkey by cutting the wire fences in eight different points over an area of 30 kilometers. Some 70,000 Syrians entered in less than 24 hours alone,” he said.     

Meanwhile, the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) sent a group of experts to the region who were tasked with making preparations for a possible new refu-gee influx. The experts have already prepared a risk analysis report for the government. AFAD officials emphasize that the agency is ready for the worst-case scenario but said they did not expect a much bigger wave.

Nineteen people who were injured in clashes were brought to Turkey for treatment. The Health Ministry has given the details of the wounded people to security officials with claims that they were members of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), a PKK offshoot in Syria and the political wing of the YPG.

Officials speaking on condition of anonymity said a total of 370 people had also crossed into Syria in one month to aid the YPG in their battle against jihadists.