Struggling to cope, Turkey stops refugees on Syrian border
ANKARA - Reuters
General view of the refugee camp named "Container City" on the Turkish-Syrian border in Oncupinar in Kilis province, southern Turkey. REUTERS PhotoTurkey has begun temporarily holding thousands of Syrians on the Syrian side of the border as it struggles to cope with a growing wave of refugees.
At least 2,000 people fleeing violence in Syria were prevented from entering Turkey overnight at one of several unofficial border crossings in the southern province of Hatay, a Turkish official and witnesses said.
"We have run out of space to house these people. We are working to make shelters and when these are completed we will allow these people across," the official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
He said the refugees were being handed food and humanitarian aid through the barbed-wire fence that marks much of Turkey's 900-km border with Syria, and through which tens of thousands of Syrians have scrambled over the past 17 months.
The official said he hoped the refugees would be allowed to cross later on Sunday.
The number of Syrian refugees in Turkey has nearly doubled over the past two months to more than 80,000 and Ankara has already said it is struggling to cope.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said this week Turkey could run out of space if the number went above 100,000 and suggested the United Nations may need to create a "safe zone" inside Syria.
In total, more than 200,000 Syrians have poured into neighbouring countries since the start of the conflict, already surpassing a U.N. year-end estimate of 185,000, and Turkey, which has seen the highest refugee influx, is growing frustrated at what it sees as a slow international response.
"The United Nations and others are commending Turkey and neighbouring countries for doing a good job housing the refugees but all these comments are actually covering up a crisis," a second Turkish official told Reuters.