Turkey opens new camps; Daraya dead at 400

Aug. 29, 2012 at 2:30 AM
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ANKARA, Turkey, Aug. 29 (UPI) -- Turkey is opening new camps so it can hold 150,000 refugees fleeing Syria, an aid agency said, but a U.N. official said the number could quickly reach 200,000.

The additional five or six refugee camps, which will increase Turkey's capacity by 50,000, started opening Tuesday and should be completed within 10 days, the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency of Turkey said.

The AFAD is responsible for emergency management and civil protection and is coordinating Turkey's aid efforts.

Turkey already has more than 80,000 refugees registered in camps along the country's 565-mile border with Syria and has said it will reach capacity at 100,000.

It has floated proposals, such as safe zones within Syria for refugees, if the number of people fleeing into Turkey exceeds the country's capacity.

Turkey has already spent more than $300,000 to host refugees, an AFAD official told The Wall Street Journal.

Turkey's Foreign Ministry has asked the international community to help in dealing with the deluge of refugees fleeing the Assad regime's brutal opposition crackdown, but no country has yet provided "any material aid," the AFAD official told the Journal.

The refugee-camp expansion announcement came as the U.N. High Commission for Refugees, mandated to protect and support refugees, said it expected the number of refugees seeking shelter and protection in Turkey could double to 200,000.

A population of 200,000 is about the size of Orlando, Fla.

The number of refugees crossing the border into Turkey has jumped in the past two weeks from 400 or 500 a day to as many as 5,000 a day, UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming told reporters in Geneva, Switzerland.

"In the past 24 hours, over 3,000 Syrians are reported to have crossed into Turkey, with a further 7,000 expected to cross in the coming days," she said.

The number of arrivals into a camp in northern Jordan in the past week has also spiked, doubling to more than 10,000 in a week from 4,500 the week before, Fleming said.

"We do believe this could be the start of a major, much larger influx into Jordan," she said.

Syria's army is intensifying its bombing and other military confrontations in the southwestern Syrian city of Daraa, near the Jordanian border, activists say.

Fleming said a growing number of unaccompanied children without parents are turning up in Jordan's camps.

"Some children report that their parents have died, or are staying behind in Syria to look after relatives, or are working in other countries," she told reporters. "Some children who did not have passports said they were sent ahead of their parents who will follow later."

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was to fly to New York Wednesday to present Turkey's growing refugee challenge to the U.N. Security Council Thursday.

In Syria, opposition groups said up to 400 bodies had been found in the poor Sunni city of Daraya on the southwest outskirts of Damascus, the capital.

Residents told the British newspaper The Guardian regime troops and Alawite pro-regime paramilitary semi-criminal militia gangs known as shabiha raided some streets "two or three times" -- and in some cases demanded hospitality from residents and then killed their hosts when they left.

"People were forced to serve them food and tea. Just before they were leaving they killed the people in the house. ... I know the family," a resident who said his name was Abu Muatasim told The Guardian.

President Bashar Assad's regime has portrayed the Daraya carnage as a counterterrorism "cleansing."

Human rights groups and residents say many of the dead were civilians.

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