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Growing Turkey refugee crisis

September 22, 2014

The number of Syrian Kurds fleeing to Turkey ahead of advancing "Islamic State" (IS) militants continues to swell. Officials fear that hundreds of thousands may end up seeking refuge across the border.

A family stand near a fence as several hundred Syrian refugees wait to cross into Turkey at the border in Suruc, Turkey, Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said on Monday that more than 130,000 Syrian Kurds have fled across the border to Turkey in the past few days, as they seek to escape an advance by marauding jihadist militants.

Kurtulmus warned that the number was likely to rise.

"We are prepared for the worst scenario, which is an influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees," he told reporters in the capital, Ankara, reiterating warnings given by the United Nations refugee agency, the UNHCR, on Saturday.

Turkey has already taken in more than a million Syrians fleeing from that country's civil conflict over the past three-and-a-half years.

Turkey's emergencies ministry, the AFAD, said the surge in the number of refugees had forced the country to restrict entrance across the border, which Turkey opened on Friday.

"The border is open, but only at one place at Mursitpinar, for better organization of crossings," an AFAD official said.

He said the restriction allowed authorities to control the stream of refugees and give first aid and vaccinations if necessary.

Reported atrocities

Syrian Kurds have been leaving the area around Ayn al-Arab, known in Kurdish as Kobani, as jihadist militants from the group "Islamic State" (IS) continue to close in on the strategic town, the third largest Kurdish population center in Syria.

Because of its relative safety, up to now, the town had been serving as a refuge for some 200,000 people displaced from elsewhere in the country.

Refugees in Turkey have reported atrocities committed by IS including stonings, beheadings and the torching of homes. The militants have already captured large swathes of territory straddling the Syria-Iraq border, and are now seeking to consolidate those gains by advancing into the Kurdish regions of Syria bordering Turkey.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the group has seized 64 villages in the area since the fighting began there early on Wednesday.

tj/ksb (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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