DRC at forefront as thousands of Syrians flee battle for Tal Abyad to Turkey

Thousands of Syrians fleeing the city of Tal Abyad on the Turkish-Syrian border are in need of basic aid and support, the Danish Refugee Council said today, amid concern of slow pace in response.

Since June 1, over 20,000 Syrians (and over 2,000 Iraqis) have poured over the border at Akcakale in Sanliurfa province, where the main influx has been concentrated, into Turkey, following heavy ground clashes in the Tal Abyad region between the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group and Syrian Kurdish units of the YPG backed by their allies. The majority of those fleeing into Turkey are women and children – constituting 70 per cent of the total.  Tal Abyad has been under ISIL control since August 2014.

“The numbers along the border attempting to cross are rising every day. Many of the Syrians are sleeping outside and are in need of all support including food, water, hygiene kits and other basic non-food items. So far, in coordination with local authorities, DRC has been one of the few actors responding to the influx however we are concerned about growing need for support,” said Sarah Saleh, DRC Turkey Country Director

After visiting the Akcakale border crossing in southern Turkey, Numan Kurtulmus, Turkish deputy prime minister, told local Turkish media on June 10 that access would be limited to humanitarian cases only.

On Monday, the border was opened between 14:00-17:30 during which another 4,000 individuals were estimated to have entered (3,000 registered, 1,000 awaiting registration), the DRC said.

“DRC is working long days to ensure refugee receive basic assistance and protection in this increasingly troubling time for Syrians,” said Ms Saleh. Since Monday DRC has distributed non-food items including mattresses, blankets, hygiene kits, kitchen kits and baby kits to over 2000 Syrian refugees.

More than 1.7 million Syrian refugees have officially registered in Turkey, according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR. Since 2013, DRC has been active in Turkey with operations presently in southeast Turkey in Sanliurfa, Hatay and Kilis.