Thousands of Syrian refugees trapped at Turkish border
Ashort walk is all it takes to cross the border from Syria into southern Turkey. But thousands of Syrian refugees can't make that walk at the moment. They're living in the open, under bridges that were once border transit points, waiting to flee their country.
The situation is pitiful. Families sleep on mattresses and carpets laid out on the concrete under the bridge, their belongings in boxes around them.
Some say they have been there 15 days, many as long as three weeks, having fled following the shelling of the towns in Syria’s north, particularly Azaz.
Almost 78,500 Syrians have already fled to Turkey but the situation at the border became overwhelming when bombing of previously safer villages north of Aleppo caused their residents to flee.
Many are simply grateful to have escaped from the near-constant shelling.
“It’s better than the conditions in their village, because here they have food and…everything,” says Fatma Halej.
Abdil Allah from the village of Ara’a is also thankful to be safe, but despairs at their current conditions:
“It’s a miserable situation," he comments. "This is the first time in my life and my family's life that we live like this. We didn’t expect that from the [Bashar al-Assad] regime.”
Estimates from organisations such as Amnesty International put the number of those stuck on the border as high as 10,000, although numbers are slowly declining.
The Turkish government has stated that the delay in processing the refugees' demands for entry is due to difficulties in finding places to put them, although three more refugee camps are currently being built along the border, bringing the total to 17.
One man, speaking anonymously, describes their frustration at being made to wait to cross.
“Now they are moving 50 people every day, the Turkish government," he says. "But it’s not enough. Fifty people is one family.”
There are limited washing facilities and bathrooms and dirty water runs across the ground next to where people sleep. Many speak of fears of disease, due to overcrowding and poor sanitation.
Ratiya, who is taking shelter in the camp with her deaf daughter, explains that, while the refugees are desperate to enter Turkey, what they want most is to be able to return home.
“Now they are asking God just for victory…and, you know, it’s a hard life for them,” she comments. “Yes, they fear that the jets may strike here. They can hear the sound from here.”