Hatay officials look for fleeing Syrian refugees

Hatay officials look for fleeing Syrian refugees

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Hatay officials look for fleeing Syrian refugees

DHA photo

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry is looking to coax back upward of thousands of Syrian refugees to temporary camps in the country’s south as they remain unaccounted for elsewhere in Turkey, an official told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday.

“Syrians who crossed the border illegally or escaped from the camps have been invited to come back to the camps by the Foreign Ministry,” Suphi Atan, who has been appointed to coordinate the Syrian camps in southern Turkish cities, said in a phone interview yesterday.

Atan said there were between 5,000 and 10,000 Syrians living in Hatay outside the camps, and there were thousands of others in other cities..

The presence of Syrians in Hatay have caused tensions with locals, and nearly 1,500 Hatay inhabitants staged a protest on Sept. 16, chanting slogans such as “shut the terror camps,” “deport the terrorists,” or “Syria and Turkey are brothers.” Police intervened, spraying pepper gas on the demonstrators.

Two police officers and four civilians were wounded in the incidents, while two police vehicles were damaged by stones thrown by protesters.

“It is not on the agenda to relocate the camps, but there is an ongoing process to invite back the people who illegally crossed the border or escaped from the refugee camps to rent houses by themselves or living in their relatives’ houses,” Atan said.

Atan also said there were nearly 5,000 Syrian refugees in Kilis and 10,000 in Şanlıurfa, as well as others elsewhere; the numbers include people that entered Turkey legally thanks to visa exemptions between Ankara and Damascus.

According to Turkish Foreign Ministry’s records, there are 81,500 refugees in Syrian camps located near the Syrian border, while nearly 10,000 people have been waiting to enter Turkey but have been prevented from doing so due to the continued construction of new camps. “But we have begun to take them gradually. Every day we accept nearly 500 new refugees from Syria,” Atan said.