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)