Middle East

Syria crisis: Refugees in Turkey fear for Jisr al-Shughour

Refugees stand behind the fence of a refugee camp in the Turkish town of Yayladagi in Hatay province near the Syrian border on Thursday
Refugees say the true number of Syrians who have fled to Turkey is far higher than the official figure given

Increasing numbers of refugees are moving from Syria into Turkey.

They fear the Syrian army and other security agencies controlled by Damascus will launch a major assault after the government said 120 security personnel were killed earlier this week.

"Troops are gathering to prepare for an attack," said one refugee just 30 minutes after he had made it into Turkey.

The man - who looked both exhilarated and tense having completed his escape - said he had walked cross-country for three hours to dodge Syrian troops.

"The circumstances there are very difficult," he said. "They are killing children and women,"

Other refugees tell much the same story. A group of three unemployed men aged 19, 25 and 30 respectively who crossed over on Thursday morning talked of people being killed in and around the town of Jisr al-Shughour.

"Thirteen or 14 tanks have surrounded the city," said one of the men as he shielded his face with a brightly coloured scarf. "They will start killing people."

The oldest of the group said that the people were simply demanding better economic conditions.

"We try only to get enough food to survive. Nothing else," he said.

"Most people have to steal to live. We only want a better life because we are hungry.

"If the government provided us with jobs then we would have no problem with it."

Officials 'unsure'

Turkish officials have now said that some 1,600 refugees have crossed the border in the last few days. But the accounts of local residents suggest the true number is far higher.

Turkish Prime Minster Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he will not close the door to refugees fleeing the country.

While some refugees cross, others are hiding out in the Syrian countryside, waiting to see what happens

But local officials seem unsure how to handle the influx. Police are preventing journalists from talking to the refugees, many of whom are being housed in a fenced and tightly guarded Red Crescent camp in the town of Yayladagi.

Some of the refugees are willing to go to the camp where they get free board and lodging. In other cases the police and soldiers are telling refugees they should go there.

In the Turkish village of Guvecci, less than a kilometre from the border, trucks have been moving along the road that runs inside Turkey along the border to pick up people who had just got out of Syria.

The same road occasionally has Turkish ambulances taking injured refugees for medical attention in Turkey.

The Syrian authorities have disrupted local mobile phone networks: Local Turkish residents, many of then relatives of the Syrians, know when and where people are trying to cross the border because they are able to communicate by mobile phones fitted with Turkish SIM cards.

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