Turkey experiences major refugee influx

Briefing Notes, 11 February 2014

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 11 February 2014, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

More than 20,000 Syrian refugees have arrived in Turkey since the start of the year in the biggest influx since early 2013. Over recent days more than 500 persons have been arriving daily across official crossing points, sometimes as many as 1,000-2,000 daily.

This new influx appears to be spurred in part by the upsurge in fighting reported across the border in northern Syria, particularly in and around Aleppo, and the conflict among opposition groups, as well.

About one-third of the recent influx, some 7,000 persons, is accommodated in camps. Turkey opened its 22nd camp in early January and authorities are considering opening further new camps to help cope with the new influx.

The influx of more than 20,000 since the first of January adds to the already existing pressure on Turkey's emergency refugee response. UNHCR is discussing with the authorities additional emergency support to help Turkey to cope with this recent influx.

Additional Syrian refugees are awaiting registration in urban areas in Turkey; many of them are believed to be in vulnerable condition and in need of urgent assistance. UNHCR is supporting the government of Turkey including through support to registration, technical assistance, distribution of core relief items to people in camps as well as the most vulnerable outside of camps and cash assistance to the most vulnerable. UNHCR maintains emergency stocks inside and outside Turkey that can be used to supplement governmental aid supplies as needed.

UNHCR continues to appeal to all states in the Syria region to keep their frontiers open to refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria.

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Thousands of desperate Syrian refugees seek safety in Turkey after outbreak of fresh fighting

Renewed fighting in northern Syria since June 3 has sent a further 23,135 refugees fleeing across the border into Turkey's southern Sanliurfa province. Some 70 per cent of these are women and children, according to information received by UNHCR this week.

Most of the new arrivals are Syrians escaping fighting between rival military forces in and around the key border town of Tel Abyad, which faces Akcakale across the border. They join some 1.77 million Syrian refugees already in Turkey.

However, the influx also includes so far 2,183 Iraqis from the cities of Mosul, Ramadi and Falujjah.

According to UNHCR field staff most of the refugees are exhausted and arrive carrying just a few belongings. Some have walked for days. In recent days, people have fled directly to Akcakale to escape fighting in Tel Abyad which is currently reported to be calm.

Thousands of desperate Syrian refugees seek safety in Turkey after outbreak of fresh fighting

Cold, Uncomfortable and Hungry in Calais

For years, migrants and asylum-seekers have flocked to the northern French port of Calais in hopes of crossing the short stretch of sea to find work and a better life in England. This hope drives many to endure squalid, miserable conditions in makeshift camps, lack of food and freezing temperatures. Some stay for months waiting for an opportunity to stow away on a vehicle making the ferry crossing.

Many of the town's temporary inhabitants are fleeing persecution or conflict in countries such as Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq, Sudan and Syria. And although these people are entitled to seek asylum in France, the country's lack of accommodation, administrative hurdles and language barrier, compel many to travel on to England where many already have family waiting.

With the arrival of winter, the crisis in Calais intensifies. To help address the problem, French authorities have opened a day centre as well as housing facilities for women and children. UNHCR is concerned with respect to the situation of male migrants who will remain without shelter solutions. Photographer Julien Pebrel recently went to Calais to document their lives in dire sites such as the Vandamme squat and next to the Tioxide factory.

Cold, Uncomfortable and Hungry in Calais

Abdu finds his voice in Germany

When bombs started raining down on Aleppo, Syria, in 2012, the Khawan family had to flee. According to Ahmad, the husband of Najwa and father of their two children, the town was in ruins within 24 hours.

The family fled to Lebanon where they shared a small flat with Ahmad's two brothers and sisters and their children. Ahmad found sporadic work which kept them going, but he knew that in Lebanon his six-year-old son, Abdu, who was born deaf, would have little chance for help.

The family was accepted by Germany's Humanitarian Assistance Programme and resettled into the small central German town of Wächtersbach, near Frankfurt am Main. Nestled in a valley between two mountain ranges and a forest, the village has an idyllic feel.

A year on, Abdu has undergone cochlear implant surgery for the second time. He now sports two new hearing aids which, when worn together, allow him to hear 90 per cent. He has also joined a regular nursery class, where he is learning for the first time to speak - German in school and now Arabic at home. Ahmed is likewise studying German in a nearby village, and in two months he will graduate with a language certificate and start looking for work. He says that he is proud at how quickly Abdu is learning and integrating.

Abdu finds his voice in Germany

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Turkey now hosts more refugees - over 2 million from more than 70 countries - than any other nation on earth. At the end of 2014, these included 1.59 million who fled Syria.
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Cate Blanchett gets to know Ahmad for World Refugee Day 2015

The actor and UNHCR supporter met a group of young Syrian refugees acting in a drama at a community centre in Lebanon. Among them was Ahmad, who was celebrating his 14th birthday.