pictures from Istanbul’s streets by Hürriyet Daily News:
When I started planning to go to Turkey to support the humanitarian aid for Syrian refugees I came across the article „How to build a perfect refugee camp“ in the New York Times.
This article tries to describe the situation of Syrian refugees in Turkey, and concentrate especially on the camp in Kilis at the Syrian border. It outlines Turkey’s hospitality towards their Syrian „guests“, but also mentions the difficulties Turkey has face while years are passing by. The article is definitely a must read!
7 months later I had the chance to visit this camp! For me a very special moment, because the article about this camp was an important point in my decision-making process to move to Southeast Turkey and become an active part in the humanitarian aid for Syrian refugees.. After 2,5 months working with urban refugees in Gaziantep, visiting them in their „homes“ in the cities or in „temporary camps“ I surely have to admit that this camp is extraordinary. Around 14,000 people, of which almost 50% are children, live in a secure in clean container neighbourhood, you find a school, supermarkets, psychologists, sport facilities, mosques, etc. Life seems to be quite good over there – if you can use the term „good“ for somebody’s life which is put on hold far away from a war-torn home. But now I can understand why so many urban refugees wish to have the chance to live in a camp. Unfortunately, the chances are very low! To date, Turkey hosts around 1,5 million Syrian refugees, of which around 250,000 are staying in camps. Around 200,000 more have poured into the country in the last 7 days from the Kobani region. These are enormous numbers, and Turkey is reaching its limits. A camp such as in Kilis is highly costly and was initially established in a time when Turkey, like everybody else, thought the conflict in Syria will last a couple of months…The civil war in Syria has entered its fourth year now and with the current developments it does not seem likely that there will be an end soon. At the border in Kilis I did not only see the camp and the trucks shipping goods and humanitarian aid to Syria, but I saw more people coming from their homeland to Turkey. Around 50,000 people are waiting in transit camps on the Syrian side of the border in Bab El Salam. And of course, the expansion of IS is a topic.
The conditions in the Turkish camps might be good and better than in other camps or for many urban refugees, Turkey might have given an extraordinary helping hand, international organizations and NGOs might have supported and helped a lot, BUT this humanitarian tragedy needs more support!
Whoever needs plain facts and figures: only 51% of UNHCR’s funding requirements for 2014 for the Syrian Regional Refugee Response have been met. (09/14 http://data.unhcr.org/syrianrefugees/regional.php)
Europe has offered 31,000 places for resetllement (07/14 http://www.unhcr.org/53bfcd969.html)
UNHCR short video about the situation in Suruç:
The official number of refugees fleeing the recent attacks of IS in Syria to Turkey is 130,000 – though it is estimated that during the last 4 days 200,000 seeked refuge in Turkey’s province Sanliurfa. More are expected!
The influx of Syrian refugees into Turkey in the last 24 hours is enormous! Around 100,000 Kurdish people fled their homeland in Syria after IS conquered around 20 villages! For Turkey, which already hosts around 1,5 million Syrian refugees this influx imposes a „new“ challenge! Thousands of people are in desperate situations and urgently need help!
30,000 are expected to come to Gaziantep – a city which already counts around 300,000 refugees.
After IS attacked and captured 20 villages in Syria at the Turkish border thousands of Kurds massed at the border. Yesterday Turkish authorities opened the border allowing them to cross to Turkey. Rapid emergency camaps are now built mainly in the province Şanlıurfa.
The following link leads to „Nar Photos“ wittnessing and documenting the situation yesterday:
Around 60,000 people crossed the border in the last 24h to seek refuge in Turkey! Help is needed everywhere – accomodation, food, medical and psychological help. This new influx of refugees into Southeast of Turkey imposes a further challenge for the authorities and host communities who are already struggeling with the existing high numbers of refugees.
The number rose to 100,000 today!!!
Karamanmaraş – this city has always come across my mind from the moment onwards I have dealt with the Syrian refugee crisis. Karamanmaraş is the city where one of the first and biggest refugee camps in Turkey was established. Even though this city is only a one hour drive away from Gaziantep I only managed it today to visit the area. I could not enter the camp, because – of course – there are many regulations due to security reasons, but I passed by and could wittness the life around it with my own eyes. Back home in Germany I basically only thought about Syrian refugees in the camps. Now, after more than 2 months working in the field I have experienced and seen that the vast majority of refugees live off-camp. Not even 1/4 of the registered refugees in Turkey live in one of the around 25 camps – most settle in citiies in the Turkish provinces close to the border, such as Gaziantep, Marin, and Urfa. The situation of off-camp/hence urban refugees is very desperate. Even though many host communities are helping and supporting them, many family do live in very bad conditions, in overpriced homes/rooms with very narroy access to food, work, education, health and psychological services. Even though the international media is reporting on daily basis about the developments in Iraq and Syria concering ISIS and arms delivery, I cannot help but wonder – where are the reports about the refugees, the internally displaced people, the people in need, the million of chidren with no access to education? People are forced to flee their homes in Syria every day, and the situation they have to face in the neighbouring countries are more than desperate! The expresseion of a newly arrived refugee family in Karamanmaraş stroke me a lot today „We hope to be able to get a place in the camp soon! Life is better there…and winter is coming!“ Yes, winter is coming and the number of refugees is constantly rising while at the same time even the UN is not even close to be able to cover the funds they need to provide basic humanitarian aid and assistance!
These are official numbers from the camps, but including the urban refugees this number likely rises up to 60,000!
Of course everybody has a right to have children, but in my job it is sometimes hard to understand seeing so many families with no financial means, shelter, security, having already 5 or more children of which some were already born during the war… and the wife is pregnant again!
Seeing all these children with a more than insecure future is one of the hardest parts of working in the Syrian Refugee Response in Gaziantep!