UN agency steps up aid operations as 130,000 Syrian refugees cross into Turkey

A Syrian refugee family in southern Turkey in February 2014. Photo: UNHCR

22 September 2014 – The UN refugee agency today announced that it is boosting efforts to help the Turkish Government assist some 130,000 Syrians who have crossed into Turkey since Friday.

“I commend Turkey’s welcoming response to offer refuge and aid to this population so suddenly and violently driven from their homes in fear for their lives,” said António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in a statement to the press.

“This massive influx shows how important it is to offer and preserve asylum space for Syrians as well as the need to mobilize international support to the neighbouring countries so generously hosting them.”

The Turkish authorities and UNHCR are preparing for the possibility of hundreds of thousands more refugees arriving in the coming days, as the battle for the northern Syrian city of Kobani (also known as Ayn al-Arab) and surrounding areas forces more people to flee.

Throughout the Syria conflict, the city of Kobani was relatively safe and untouched, and as many as 200,000 internally displaced people from other parts of the country had found refuge there.

But with recent siege of the city by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), large numbers of the population, mainly from Syria’s Kurdish minority, were forced to abandon their homes and seek safety in Turkey. Among the refugees are large numbers of women, children and older people, UNHCR reports.

At the start of the influx, UNHCR responded with immediate supplies of relief items, including 20,000 blankets, 10,000 mats, 5,000 jerry cans, 2,000 plastic sheets. The agency also donated mobile registration and coordination centres, and staff are positioned at the six border crossing points monitoring arrivals and identifying vulnerable people.

Meanwhile, the Turkish Government is accelerating the construction of two camps, with the support of UNHCR, for those who are not being hosted by the local communities and relatives. Turkey is host to more than 850,000 Syrian refugees.

UNHCR is also preparing an air, sea and land emergency relief response to offer a supply of thermal blankets, sleeping mats and kitchen sets as well as help to rapidly set up and run registration centres.

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