November 12, 2012 / 4:03 PM / 6 years ago

Turkey needs help to cope with Syrian exodus - Red Cross

GENEVA (Reuters) - Turkey needs millions of dollars in foreign aid to cope with a still-growing surge of Syrians fleeing their country’s prolonged civil war, the world’s largest disaster relief network said on Monday.

More than 110,000 refugees have already registered in Turkey since the uprising against Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad began in March last year.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said it had now drawn up plans to help Ankara support at least another 10,000 people gathered on the Syrian side of the border and 50,000 more who could cross over in the next six months.

The Federation said it was appealing for 32.3 million Swiss francs ($34.04 million) to get food and winter shelter to a total of 170,000 refugees, and to help Ankara scale up its response to the exodus.

“We’ve seen a doubling of the camp population since July 2012. And I think that as you have seen over the last few days, there has been an increase in the number of Syrians moving into Turkey,” Simon Eccleshall, head of disaster and crisis management at the Federation, told a news briefing in Geneva.

About 9,000 Syrians crossed into Turkey in a 24-hour period last Friday alone, swelling the numbers who have fled intensified fighting between Syrian government forces and rebels in Aleppo and other parts of northern Syria.

Forces loyal to Assad bombarded the Ras al-Ain area on the border with Turkey on Sunday, days after the town fell to rebels.

Turkish authorities, along with the Turkish Red Crescent Society, are providing for the refugees in 14 camps near the open but volatile border and plan to build three more camps.

“They now recognise that the situation is becoming prolonged, the initial thoughts that the population might be displaced for a shorter amount of time are now being reassessed and the government of Turkey along with its partners are planning for the contingency of a longer-term assistance programme,” Eccleshall said.

The Turkish government has spent up to $300 million and is looking to partners including the Federation and U.N.’s World Food Programme to share the burden of escalating costs, he said.

The six-month appeal seeks cash to buy cooking stoves, electric heaters, blankets and other winter items to Syrians already in southern Turkey, as well as essential food, hygiene kits, and blankets for people congregated near the border.

“However, I think that if the situation continues to deteriorate and the number of displaced people increases, we will be required to revise the appeal upwards,” Eccleshall said.

Lebanon and Jordan each host 115,000 Syrians, many of whom are staying with relatives, while Iraq has taken in 50,000, according to the latest figures from the U.N. refugee agency.

In addition, an estimated 70,000 to 100,000 Syrians are staying in urban areas in Turkey and have not registered as refugees, UNHCR spokeswoman Sybella Wilkes told Reuters.

“The numbers are significant in Turkey. One of the reasons that we are putting emphasis on this today is that there is a lack of other actors on the ground in Turkey,” Eccleshall said.

($1 = 0.9489 Swiss francs)

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Andrew Heavens

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