News / Middle East

Refugee Crisis Mounts in Turkey as Syrian Violence Escalates

A Syrian refugee waits for medical assistance on a bed in a field hospital set up by the Turkish Health Ministry in a camp in Yayladagi ,Turkey, near the Syrian border, Sunday, June 12, 2011.
A Syrian refugee waits for medical assistance on a bed in a field hospital set up by the Turkish Health Ministry in a camp in Yayladagi ,Turkey, near the Syrian border, Sunday, June 12, 2011.

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Henry Ridgwell

As Syrian security forces move in to the besieged town of Jisr al-Shughour, thousands of refugees are fleeing across the Turkish border.  More camps are being set up to house the new arrivals.  Many of the refugees are in desperate need of medical help.

The emergency ward at Antakya hospital is about to receive its latest casualty from Syria.  It is a young girl who has fallen sick and was brought to the Turkish border by her desperate mother, who is also pregnant.

The ambulance driver says the violence in Syria means hospitals there are either full with the injured, or the journey is too hazardous.

The clashes in and around the northern Syrian town of Jisr al-Shughour have forced thousands to flee.  Many of them have recorded the horrifying scenes on cellphones and cameras.


In the border village of Harabjoz, people have set up tents as they wait to cross into Turkey.  One refugee, who did not give his name, described the conditions they are facing. “There is no milk for the children," he says.  “We bought some but we have run out.  They are targeting homes and yesterday gunmen targeted us.  All these people will not survive because they burned all their crops,” he says. “Now it's become sectarian for sure," he said.

A spokesman for the United Nations' refugee agency, Metin Corabatir, has warned of a growing crisis.  "The latest figures UNHCR received from the border is 5051 who fled from Syria because of violence and persecution in this country," he said.

Witnesses believe the true figure could be double that number - including those who have crossed undetected.

The refugees are taken to camps like the one in the town of Yayladagi. It’s housed in a disused tobacco factory - and heavily protected.

As we tried to speak to refugees through the fence, police quickly stepped in our way.  At the entrance, we found Turkish families trying to get inside to see their Syrian relatives.  The Turkish authorities refuse to let them enter.

Yasar Selcuk is trying to see his nephews. “My relatives are from the villages around Latakia,” he said. “These are poor unarmed people, they are not armed people who would do anything against the government, they are mostly women, children and old people.”

Turkey has warned it may need international help to deal with the refugee crisis.  As more and more Syrians flee their country, a fuller picture is slowly emerging of the violent chaos its people are facing.

Watch a related report by Henry Ridgwell:

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