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More than 20,000 Syrians flee to Turkey this year, biggest influx in months

News Stories, 11 February 2014

© UNHCR Photo
A Syrian refugee family in southern Turkey. More than 20,000 people have fled to Turkey so far this year to escape fighting.

GENEVA, February 11 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency reported on Tuesday that 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 people 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," UNHCR's chief spokesperson, Melissa Fleming, told journalists in Geneva.

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

The influx of more than 20,000 since the beginning of the year adds to the 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.

Fleming said that additional Syrian refugees were 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 for 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 government aid 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," Fleming said.

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Beyond the Border

In 2010, the Turkish border with Greece became the main entry point for people attempting by irregular methods to reach member states of the European Union, with over 132,000 arrivals. While some entered as migrants with the simple wish of finding a better life, a significant number fled violence or persecution in countries such as Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq and Somalia. The journey is perilous, with many reports of drowning when people board flimsy vessels and try to cross the Mediterranean Sea or the River Evros on the border between Greece and Turkey. The many deficiencies in the Greek asylum system are exacerbated by the pressure of tens of thousands of people awaiting asylum hearings. Reception facilities for new arrivals, including asylum-seekers, are woefully inadequate. Last year, UNHCR visited a number of overcrowded facilities where children, men and women were detained in cramped rooms with insufficient facilities. UNHCR is working with the Greek government to improve its asylum system and has called upon other European states to offer support.

Beyond the Border

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There are some 1.4 million Iraqi refugees living in Syria, most having fled the extreme sectarian violence sparked by the bombing of the Golden Mosque of Samarra in 2006.

Many Iraqi refugee parents regard education as a top priority, equal in importance to security. While in Iraq, violence and displacement made it difficult for refugee children to attend school with any regularity and many fell behind. Although education is free in Syria, fees associated with uniforms, supplies and transportation make attending school impossible. And far too many refugee children have to work to support their families instead of attending school.

To encourage poor Iraqi families to register their children, UNHCR plans to provide financial assistance to at least 25,000 school-age children, and to provide uniforms, books and school supplies to Iraqi refugees registered with UNHCR. The agency will also advise refugees of their right to send their children to school, and will support NGO programmes for working children.

UNHCR's ninemillion campaign aims to provide a healthy and safe learning environment for nine million refugee children by 2010.

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