Turkey closes border to thousands of Syrians fleeing Russia-backed offensive in Aleppo

Special to WorldTribune.com

Some 35,000 Syrians are stranded at the Turkish border after fleeing a Russian-backed Assad regime offensive in Aleppo.

Turkish humanitarian groups warned of a desperate situation in the making as they set up camps and sent in truckloads of aid on Feb. 8 for people, many of them women and children, amassed at the Bab al-Salama frontier post, which faces Turkey’s Oncupinar crossing.

A boy arrives with women as Syrians fleeing the northern embattled city of Aleppo wait on February 6, 2016 in Bab al-Salama, near the Turkish border crossing. /AFP/Bulent Kilic
A boy arrives with women as Syrians fleeing the northern city of Aleppo wait on Feb. 6 in Bab al-Salama, near the Turkish border crossing. /AFP/Bulent Kilic

Thus far, Turkey has decided to keep the border closed.

“Turkey has reached the limit of its capacity to absorb the refugees,” Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus told CNN Turk television.

“But in the end, these people have nowhere else to go. Either they will die beneath the bombings… or we will open our borders.”

The Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation said it had set up a new camp with a capacity of 10,000, in addition to eight it already operates near Bab al-Salama.

“Our operations are aimed at taking care of people inside Syria,” Serkan Nergis, a spokesman for the foundation, told AFP. “The numbers could soar and we are looking at how we can provide shelter for Syrians in safe areas.”

Turkey is already hosting over 2.5 million refugees from Syria’s civil war.

A Turkish official said the border crossing was open only “for emergency situations.”

Mohammad Rahma, a 15-year-old who was blinded in a Russian air strike last month, was among those allowed to cross into Turkey for treatment. “We’ve been living out in the open because we don’t have any place to stay,” his father, Ahmad, told AFP.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the nation is “under threat” from the wave of refugees, but said that “if necessary, we have to, and will, let our brothers in.”

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