Number of Syrian refugees rivaling locals in 10 Turkish cities
Ali Kayalar - ISTANBUL
DHA photoThe number of Syrian refugees in 10 cities across Turkey now rivals the population of local residents and even outnumbers it in one city, a senior Turkish official has told the Hürriyet Daily News.
“In at least 10 cities, the number of Syrian refugees now constitutes a sizable portion of the city,” the official said during a meeting with a small group of journalists on Aug. 15.
The official specifically referred to the town of Kilis in the southeast near Turkey’s border with Syria, which he described as a “Syrian city” in terms of population. “The local population is 108,000 and the number of refugees is 110,000,” he said.
A relatively small portion of the Syrian refugees in Turkey are in 25 camps across 10 cities. The remainder tries to make a living in cities, many in very harsh conditions.
Some 225,000 Iraqi refugees add to the 1.8 million to 1.9 million Syrian refugees in the country.
“We are in an incredibly unstable geography,” the official also said, referring to the problem of foreign fighters transiting Turkey.
“Think about how the wars to our south, and the members of Daesh coming from more than 110 countries, from A to Z there are all kinds of terrorist organizations in Syria. We have a border of 1,300 kilometers with Syria and Iraq, more than half of all border patrol units are located on the Syrian border,” the official added, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant [ISIL]. “We have implemented every necessary measure that can be done to prevent the flow of foreign terrorist fighters and to prevent any kind of security threat toward Turkey from Syria where you have one the bloodiest internal wars.”
‘No confidence in PYD’
Commenting on relations with the Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD), the official repeated the Turkish position that the Kurdish group in Syria is not on Turkey’s “target list,” but still expressed skepticism about the group.
“We cannot have confidence when we have concrete intelligence that some groups within the PYD have incredibly good relations with al-Assad,” the official said.
“We are tired of the international community putting the responsibility for all political actions in Syria on the shoulder of different non-state actors. We need a comprehensive solution and the ‘Lebanonization’ of Syria is not such a solution. Giving a central role to the PYD, a highly complex organization, a highly disputed organization, amounts to the international community transferring its responsibility to the shoulders of the Kurdish organization,” he added.
Ankara often emphasizes that the PYD’s armed forces, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), are not the sole Kurdish group fighting against ISIL. Turkey is also involved in training of the Peshmerga, the military power of the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq, in KRG territories.
The official also urged the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to abandon arms and withdraw from Turkey, but also raised another condition.
“As long as the PKK refrains from declaring a concrete timetable about the disarmament process then military operations will continue,” he said.