The massive influx of Kurds fleeing ISIS has created a refugee crisis in nearby Turkey, causing officials to restrict border access.
CNN reports that as many as 200,000 people have left the Syrian Kurdish city of Kobani and the surrounding in the areas in the past four days due to ISIS advances into the area. Most of the refugees have fled to Turkey.
Thousands of refugees have entered Turkey since Friday, forcing Turkish officials to reduce the number of open border crossings from eight or nine to two.
Ariane Rummery, a spokesperson for the United Nations refugee agency says that processing the Syrians entering the country is taking time. Refugees have to be checked out medically, searched for arms, and identified so they can receive ID cards to show their status. Children are also being vaccinated, Rummery said.
The exodus began after ISIS captured dozens of northern Syria Kurdish villages and threatened the border city of Kobane, prompting most of the inhabitants to evacuate in panic.
According to The Telegraph, the scene at the Turkish border was chaotic, with authorities cutting openings in a barbed-wire fence to allow the thousands of refugees’ entry, fearing a “potential humanitarian catastrophe.”
Kobane was a “virtual ghost town” reports The Telegraph, with only about 2,000 of its 50,000 residents left along with a few Kurdish fighters. Many of the remaining were elderly people guarding their properties with guns, afraid to leave for fear they would never return to their homeland again, and comparing their situation to the Palestinians who fled present-day Israel in 1948.
Refugee Sahab Basravi told Agency France Press, “”They said in the mosques that they could kill all Kurds between seven and 77 years old. So we collected our things and left, immediately.”
Kurdish forces, which The Inqusitr reports have joined the fight agains ISIS, claim they have halted the advance on Kobane. However, the Turkish prime minister fears an even greater number of people will flood the country in the coming days.
“I hope that we are not faced with a more populous refugee wave, but if we are, we have taken our precautions,” he said. “A refugee wave that can be expressed by hundreds of thousands is a possibility.”
Turkey, unable to cope with the flood of refugees despite its claims otherwise, has issued a plea for international assistance.
“We ask all the international agencies, the countries of the world, the United Nations and the Turkish government to come together to help the Kurds in their crisis,” said Hevaroun Sherif, a member of the Syrian National Coalition.
Although the government and the United Nations estimates the number of refugees to have crossed the border at 130,000, unofficial estimates put the number at closer to 200,000; and over 1.5 million refugees have fled to Turkey from Syria since fighting against the Assad regime began in March 2011.
[Image via Denver Post]