The UN refugee agency is stepping up its response to help the Turkish government provide assistance to an estimated 130,000 Syrians who have crossed into Turkey since Friday.
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.
“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,” a press release cited UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres as saying. “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 neighboring countries so generously hosting them.”
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 ISIS advances and a siege of the city, large numbers of the population, mainly from Syria’s Kurdish minority, were forced to abandon their homes and seek protection and safety in Turkey’s Sanliurfa province. UNHCR teams are reporting large numbers of women, children and older people among the refugees.
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. UNHCR has also donated mobile registration and coordination centers, and staff are positioned at the six border crossing points monitoring arrivals and identifying vulnerable people.
Meanwhile, the government of Turkey 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 centers.