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Turkey: Can’t shoulder refugee crisis alone as 30,000 wait for entry

AFP
Published : Feb 9, 2016, 2:28 am IST
Updated : Feb 9, 2016, 2:28 am IST

Syrians gather to collect food of workers from Turkish Islamic aid group IHH at a temporary refugee camp for displaced Syrians in northern Syria, near Bab al-Salameh border crossing with Turkey, on Sunday. — AP

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Syrians gather to collect food of workers from Turkish Islamic aid group IHH at a temporary refugee camp for displaced Syrians in northern Syria, near Bab al-Salameh border crossing with Turkey, on Sunday. — AP

Around 30,000 Syrians are at the Turkish border after fleeing a Russia-backed regime offensive on the northern region of Aleppo, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said.

With his country facing mounting pressure to open its border, Mr Davutoglu said the refugees would be admitted if need be, although Turkey should not be expected “to shoulder the refugee issue alone.”

“Around 30,000 Syrians have now massed,” the border with north-western Syria which remains closed, he told a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Mr Davutoglu, whose country is hosting 2.7 million Syrian refugees, said Turkey would take refugees “if necessary”.

“Obviously, as always, we will provide for our Syrian brothers and accept them when necessary,” he said.

But he warned: “No one should assume that just because Turkey is taking in all the refugees that it should be expected to shoulder the refugee issue alone.”

Ms Merkel’s visit is aimed at pressing Turkey to make good on pledges to do more to reduce the influx of refugees to Europe. It came as 33 people died off Turkey’s coast attempting to reach Greece in two separate tragedies on Tuesday.

The Turkish government struck a deal with the EU in November to halt the outflow of refugees, in return for three billion euros ($3.2 billion) in financial assistance.

The EU on Wednesday finally reached an agreement on how to finance the deal.

But the deal and the onset of winter do not appear to have deterred the migrants, with boats still arriving on the Greek islands daily. Mr Davutoglu said Turkey and Germany would “cooperate better” to make EU’s border agency Frontex more efficient.

Meanwhile, as Turkey ponders whether to let in tens of thousands of Syrians fleeing a major Russian-backed regime offensive around Aleppo, Turkish border town of Kilis feared the consequences of yet another influx.

The town is the only major urban centre in Turkey with a majority of Syrians, and the feeling among many locals is that it can take no more.

“Life here would be paralysed in the face of a mass exodus,” a young nurse, Kaya, said.

Since the start of the Syrian civil war nearly five years ago, Turkey has become the biggest country for Syrian refugees, with more than 2.7 million on its soil.

Of those only 250,000 of them live in camps, with the rest in urban areas.

The latest wave of refugees — including women and children — has been massing at Syria's Bab al-Salama border crossing since Friday.

And with opposition forces and 350,000 civilians in rebel-held areas of the divided city of Aleppo facing a possible government siege, at least 70,000 more are expected to head to the border unless Damascus stops its assault.

Location: Turkey, Ankara