Turkey to take in more Syrians as numbers surge on border
AFP photoTurkey will take in more Syrians along its border, the country’s deputy prime minister has signaled, as tens of thousands who have fled violence near Aleppo have amassed on the Turkish border.
“Either they’re going to die in the bombardment there... Or we will take all these people by opening up our borders. This is what we’re doing now,” Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş told CNN Türk early Feb. 7, underscoring that Turkey had no option on the table to say “do not come” to the thousands parked on the Turkish border because of Russia-backed airstrikes targeting Aleppo, whose control is split between the Syrian opposition, the Syrian army and the People’s Defense Units (YPG).
Kurtulmuş said Turkey had already reached its capacity to host refugees, noting that 3 million refugees are living on Turkish soil when one includes Iraqis.
“Some of them come in and some others are being held outside the border with all sorts of humanitarian aid [being provided],” said Kurtulmuş, adding that nearly 15,000 Syrians had entered Turkey and at least 25,000 others were waiting on the other side of the border.
The deputy prime minister said the fresh flow of Syrian refugees to Turkey could ultimately total up to 1 million.
Aid trucks and ambulances entered Syria from Turkey on Feb. 7 to deliver food and supplies to tens of thousands of people fleeing violence in Aleppo, Reuters reported on Feb. 7, as air strikes targeted villages on the road north to the Turkish border. Aleppo was reported to be still home to around 350,000 people. Aid workers told Reuters that the city – Syria’s largest before the war – could soon fall.
European Commissioner Johannes Hahn, meanwhile, urged Turkey to do more to stem the migrant flow to Europe as agreed between the 28-member-state union and Turkey upon a deal reached in late 2015.
“This action plan was agreed more than two months ago and we are still not seeing a significant decline in the number of migrants,” Hahn, the EU’s enlargement commissioner, told Reuters after an EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Amsterdam attended also by Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Turkey’s foreign minister. “Turkey could do more, I have no doubt.”
Making remarks on tens of thousands of Syrians awaiting on the Turkish border, Çavuşoğlu said Turkey would keep its “open border policy” for refugees, speaking after the EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Amsterdam on Feb. 6.
“We are still keeping this open border policy for these people fleeing from the aggression from the regime as well as air strikes by Russia,” he said.
“We have received already 5,000 of them, another 50,000 to 55,000 are on their way, and we cannot leave them there alone because air strikes are ongoing and also regime forces supported by Iranian Shiite militias are attacking these civilians as well,” Çavuşoğlu said.
“If they reached our door and have no other choice, if necessary, we have to and will let our brothers in,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said as he returned to Turkey on board a flight from Senegal on Feb. 6.
“The regime has now blocked a part of Aleppo... Turkey is under threat,” said Erdoğan.
Turkey came under mounting pressure to open its border on Feb. 6 as thousands of Syrians continued to reach the Turkish border, with the European Union calling on Ankara to grant them refuge.
The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) told the Associated Press that thousands of Syrians had arrived at seven of the main informal camps close to the Turkish border. The group said the camps were already at capacity before the latest influx, and that aid groups were working around the clock to deliver tents and essential items to the displaced.