Guterres, Jolie discuss Syrian refugees with Turkish officials
Turkish President Abdullah Gül shakes hands with UN Refugee Agency special envoy Angelina Jolie at Çankaya presidential palace in Ankara. (Photo: Courtesy of Presidency)
14 September 2012 /TODAY'S ZAMAN
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres and UN Refugee Agency special envoy Angelina Jolie had a series of talks with Turkish officials in Ankara on Friday, discussing the situation of Syrian refugees living in camps along Turkey's southern border.
The duo was received by President Abdullah Gül on Friday afternoon. Jolie and Guterres are in the region to draw attention to the plight of the Syrian refugees who have fled from the nation's civil war.
The two also spoke with Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay at the Prime Ministry's office.
Atalay mentioned that the international community has failed to provide a sufficient level of help to Turkey in order to share the country's burden of fulfilling the needs of the influx of refugees. Atalay also gave special thanks to Jolie and Guterres for visiting the camps at Gaziantep and Kilis on Thursday.
“For drawing the world's attention to the humanitarian plight in Syria, we think that [your visit] is very important,” Atalay said, addressing Jolie.
Turkey is accommodating around 80,000 refugees in 11 camps across the country's southern and southeastern provinces of Gaziantep, Kilis, Şanlıurfa, Kahramanmaraş and Hatay. Atalay reiterated that Turkey is following an open-border policy for the incoming refugees.
“Also, we are trying to do our best regarding the [Syrian] children's education and health services,” Atalay added.
Jolie says winter conditions a concern for Syrian refugees
Jolie also expressed her fear that the approaching winter would make the plight of the Syrian refugees more difficult during a press conference after her talks with Atalay.
She claimed that the winter is “a very large concern for all of us,” saying that she hopes “no one freezes to death in this very frightening time.”
Meanwhile, Guterres said the UN acknowledges that the presence of 80,000 refugees mean a great challenge for Turkey, while remarking that the country's refugee policy is in line with UN standards.
“Turkey is proceeding in the right direction [in terms of its refugee policy],” Guterres affirmed.
Earlier in the day, Jolie and Guterres also met with Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin. The meeting, closed to the press, lasted about one hour.
Jolie and Guterres' visits to Syrian refugee camps started in Jordan on Tuesday. Jordan is hosting around 30,000 refugees at the Zaatari camp in its northern desert city of Mafraq, while roughly five times this number are living in different provinces, including ar-Ramtha, Irbid and Amman.
The UN Refugee Agency has said the number of Syrian refugees seeking its help now tops a quarter of a million, and the real number could be far higher. The agency explained on Tuesday that while it has 253,106 people registered or awaiting registration as Syrian refugees, the real number is likely to be much higher, as tens of thousands are believed to have not yet registered.