Serkan Demirtaş - Hürriyet Daily News / Istanbul, July 8 () - Turkey’s disaster management agency is working to build a new refugee camp in Kilis, a town on the Syrian border, in the face of a fresh, massive influx from its southern neighbor as a result of a potential attack by the Islamic jihadists on the Azaz province, one of most populous regions in northwest Syria.
Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) is working on the establishment of the camp with a capacity of 55,000 refugees. The country has already been host to nearly 2 million Syrians since civil war broke in early 2011. Around 278,000 of them are being sheltered in 25 camps mostly in Turkey’s border provinces.
According to AFAD officials, 100,000 refugees may cross into Turkey through the Öncüpınar border gate in the first 24 hours after a potential attack by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The 55,000-refugee camp is designed to address the needs of these potential newcomers, officials said.
AFAD preparations follow a very strategic risk assessment made by the National Security Council (MGK) during a meeting last week that envisaged cooperation between the Assad regime and ISIL. The regime paved the way for ISIL to seize control of northern Aleppo from the Free Syrian Army and has cleared its way through aerial bombings since mid-June, according to Turkish assessments, which followed Turkish counter measures. The biggest threat to Turkey is any ISIL offensive which may trigger a massive influx of refugees from the wider region that is home to 4.5 million Syrians.
“Such a refugee inflow scares us. That would create a huge risk on our side, even though we have existing capabilities,” officials told Hürriyet Daily News. Officials added that all other measures are being undertaken by the AFAD in a bid to meet the humanitarian needs of potential immigrants.
The same officials underlined that the situation around the Mare Line, or the western part of the Euphrates River, was calm as ISIL’s advance west was stopped after American aerial strikes against Islamic jihadist targets in the region.
Harmonization efforts underway
Speaking to a group of journalists, AFAD Chairman Fuat Oktay confirmed the making of the new camp in Kilis, saying “In fact, we are not very keen to announce such new camps because it would be regarded as encouraging Syrians to leave their homes even if there is no need.”
Oktay said these camps are used as venues where Syrians can adapt to Turkey and their new lives before starting to live with Turkish people in residential areas.
Adding Kilis was hosting 123,000 Syrians, although its population is 108,000, Oktay said the AFAD has been working towards the harmonization and co-habitation of Turks and Syrians through intensive education programs. “There is an immense interest among Syrians to learn Turkish. We can hardly manage this through special courses,” he said.