Syrian refugees flee the 'Islamic State'
Turkey has announced that around 3,000 refugees have crossed into the country over the weekend. As the battle between the "Islamic State" and Kurdish forces intensifies, Syrians are leaving their livelihoods behind.
Forced to flee
In the past week, at least 13,000 Syrians have fled fighting that erupted near the strategic Syrian town of Tal Abyad, used by the "Islamic State" to recruit foreign fighters for their violent campaign to create a modern "caliphate." Turkey responded by closing its border, forcing those fleeing the violence to cross without authorization.
Caught between militants and closed borders
Kurdish forces advancing on the militant-dominated town of Tal Abyad captured key villages nearby. The "Islamic State" destroyed two bridges in the town using explosives as a means to impede the Kurdish advance. However, some Syrians caught in the cross-fire were forced to stay by militants. Those able to escape encountered another obstacle, Turkey's closed border.
Escaping the 'Islamic State'
Around 3,000 refugees crossed the Syrian-Turkish border over the weekend. Syrians fleeing the conflict could be seen carrying few possessions and younger family members while attempting to jump the barbed wire fence at the closed border. While Tal Abyad was a recruitment hub for the "Islamic State," residents coped with the situation until Kurdish forces brought the conflict to their doorsteps.
'Remain within their border'
Turkish forces fired water cannons and pepper spray at Syrians attempting to cross the border before the government caved in and reluctantly opened the crossing at Ackatale. Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said Syrians were escpang airstrikes by US-led coalition forces. "Our priority is for them to remain within their border," Kurtulmus said on Monday, referring to the Syrians.
Four million Syrians registered with UNHCR
The UNHCR reported in late May that nearly 4 million Syrians registered as asylum seekers with the aid organization. Turkey alone has taken in 1.7 million refugees since the conflict erupted between rebels and forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The Anatolian country has typically kept an open-door policy for Syrians but is lately struggling to cope with the massive influx.
Children 'suffer immensely'
"The conflict in Syria has caused Syrian girls and boys of all ages to suffer immensely, both physically and psychologically," UN High Comminssioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said in a statement. Children account for half of the Syrian refugees registered in Turkey, according to the latest figures from UNHCR.
Not nearly enough
Earlier this year, Turkey opened its largest refugee camp to house Syrians escaping the deadly conflict. The Suruc camp is able host 35,000 people when fully populated. More than 90,000 refugees are residing in 25 camps across the country. However, despite praise from the UNHCR, Turkey's is unable meet the needs of the record-number of Syrian refugees entering the country.
In Kobani, less than 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the town of Tal Abyad, a few Syrians have stayed behind after an aggressive onslaught by the "Islamic State" and counteroffensive by Kurdish peshmerga forces left the border town in near ruins. With a shortage of food and electricity, the handful of residents struggle to survive.