Number of Syrian refugees exceeds 16,000 in Turkey

Syrian refugees walk in their camp near the Syrian border in Reyhanlı on Monday. The number of Syrian refugees fleeing violence in their country is now more than 16,000. (Photo: AP)

March 19, 2012, Monday/ 17:42:00

The number of Syrians who have fled the ongoing violence in their country and sought refuge in Turkey has reached 16,446, according to data released on Monday by the Prime Ministry's Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate (AFAD).

Turkey has established tent cities in the southern provinces, among them Hatay, Gaziantep and Kilis, to provide accommodation to the Syrians. “The number of Syrians who have come to our country to seek shelter so far is 29,301. The number of Syrians who have returned to Syria is 13,222. As of today, there are 14,329 Syrian refugees in Hatay, 1,159 in Gaziantep and 958 in Kilis, which make a total of 14,446,” AFAD President Fuat Oktay said.Oktay also noted that the relevant state institutions are providing accommodation, food, healthcare, religious services, education, security, communication and translation services to the refugees in the tent cities in addition to organizing social activities for them.

Oktay also said there are 2,150 Syrians who are of school age. Of these, 1,121 are girls and 1,029 are boys. They are taught at 68 classrooms established in the tent cities in Hatay.

On Monday, Turkish Red Crescent (Kızılay) President Ahmet Lütfi Akar traveled to Hatay to inspect the tent cities in Hatay and the neighboring provinces. On his visit to Hatay Governor Mehmet Celalettin Lekesiz, Akar was briefed on the relief efforts for Syrian refugees in Hatay.

Lekesiz told Akar that the transfer of Syrian refugees from Hatay to other provinces will gradually increase as of Tuesday.

Akar said Kızılay will do its best to facilitate the state’s job of hosting the Syrian refugees. “All the needs of the Syrians, who are our guests in Turkey, are met. We are trying to assist them in every way possible to help them forget that they are away from home,” added Akar.

Speaking later in the day, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said Turkey could not remain indifferent to developments in Syria, pointing to a sharp increase in the number of Syrians fleeing to Turkey in the past few weeks, saying the number has exceeded 16,000. “It is our duty to offer them support,” he said during a joint news conference with Moroccan Foreign Minister Saad-Eddine al-Othmani, just as the Syrians fought as part of the Ottoman forces against invading Western forces during the Çanakkale naval battle of 1915.

One of the Syrian refugees who fled from the Syrian town of Idlib and settled in the tent city established in Hatay’s Reyhanlı district, Mustafa Jasim (45) told the Anatolia news agency that he and his family came from Syria about a week ago when the clashes in his hometown intensified.

“Everyone who talks about ‘freedom’ in Syria is attacked by the Syrian military. Everyone, no matter if they are women, children or the elderly, is attacked with heavy weapons,” Jasim said. He said what is happening in Syria is nothing other than brutality and that no one is safe. He also thanked Turkey for welcoming him and his family. “All of my relatives came here. The people of Syria and Turkey have always been brothers. They take good care of us here. They host us very well. We would like to thank Turkey,” he said.

Ahmed Abdulkerim, a 24-year-old Syrian national who came to Turkey two years ago to study medicine, is in Reyhanlı now, to see his family, who recently settled in the tent city there. “I took part in demonstrations in front of the Syrian Embassy in Ankara. That’s the reason why I cannot go back to my country. I have not seen my family for about a year,” he told Anatolia. Abdulkerim said his father stayed in Syria to protect their house while his mother and sisters have taken refuge in Turkey.

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