Syrian refugees have been pouring toward the Turkish borders queuing in thousands, leaving Turkey with no choice but closing the door it has been opening to migrants.
The migrant influx surged especially after the escalated strikes around the city of Aleppo by Russian-backed Syrian government force that have sent more than 30,000 people fleeing to the Turkish border gate of Oncupinar in the past few days, and officials say tens of thousands more could be on the move.
While praised for taking in more than 2.5 million refugees from Syria’s war that erupted five years ago, Turkey is struggling to stop their death defying journeys to Europe in addition to averting radical militants from sneaking into the country.
With the hardships, Turkey is still trying to provide aid across the border while keeping the gates shut at Oncupinar.
The situation on the border has changed in recent years. “We have much wider considerations now … There are terrorist organizations that weren’t there when the Syrian conflict first began,” a senior government official who deals with immigration issues said.
The official added that the number of refugees wanting to use Turkey as a staging post to Europe despite the dangers is rising, that which leaves Ankara with a responsibility to prevent such incidents from taking place. Fr example, the drowning of Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi struck the world last September as his family tried to reach the Greek islands from Turkey.
“Let everyone in and you may see another Aylan Kurdi.”
Local authorities say there is no need, for now, to open the gates as Turkish aid groups are providing the Syrian side of the border with food and supplies. Yet, the refugees will ultimately be allowed in, if necessary, President Tayyip Erdogan said.
Ankara has been trying to convince the international community of the importance of establishing a “safe zone” inside Syria to give refuge to migrants without them being forced to cross borders, that being the only sustainable way to manage the migrant flow.
Western leaders showed mere interest in the idea, given that such a zone would put them in direct military confrontation with President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.
Yet, on a small scale, Turkey is putting it into practice at Oncupinar.
Turkey has firmly closed its borders, letting no migrants in except those in critical condition. A wounded teenager and his father were let through by foot early on Monday, while a number of ambulances transported the badly injured to hospitals in nearby Turkish towns.
“Unless their lives are in danger, unless there’s an imminent risk, the arrangements on the Syrian side have the capacity to accommodate them,” the government official said.