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Syrian Refugee Camps in Turkey Strained, Over Crowded

  • Scott Bobb
  • Sebastian Meyer

The United Nations says the number of refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria has exploded in the past month from a few hundred a day to thousands a day and by the end of the year the total could reach 700,000, three times the number projected a month ago.

Bab al-Salama Camp on Syria's border with Turkey. In the past month the number of Syrians waiting to cross into Turkey here has grown from a few hundred people to more than 6,000.

The Turkish government is already hosting some 100,000 Syrian refugees and is building more camps for them. But it cannot keep up as more and more people flee the increasingly brutal conflict.

Sixty-five year-old Um Omar arrived six weeks ago from Aleppo with her extended family of 50. She says the situation had become unbearable. “A lot of our friends died because of the shooting and the shelling and the snipers. We spent most of the time inside our apartments fearing for our lives," he said.

Turkish authorities at the border block refugees until there is space in their camps. Officials say usually a few hundred are accepted each day. Most must wait up to 40 days for their turn and must stay in Syrian camps until then.

Those refugees who leave are quickly replaced by others who have been waiting deeper inside Syria. Often, more arrive than can be accommodated and are sent back.

Abu Mustafa, a painter from Azaz in northern Syria, said, “It's a bad situation. We don't have clean water. We don't have food. The tents can't stand up against the wind. We worry about winter coming.”

Syrian and Turkish relief workers struggle to provide food, water and shelter to people who still fear air attacks by Syrian government forces. A shell last week landed a few hundred meters from this camp.

Syrians say they want a no-fly zone at least around the camps. But this has not come. And everyday thousands more arrive, traumatized by the violence and doubtful that it will end anytime soon.

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