Tens of thousands of people displaced by joint Russian and Syrian government attacks in the north of Syria must be allowed to cross the border to safety in Turkey, Amnesty International said today amid reports that thousands of people are waiting at border gates that remain closed.
Reports suggest that between 40,000 and 70,000 people are on the move after fleeing heavy fighting near the city of Aleppo. More than 20,000 are already waiting at the Bab al-Salam (Syrian) side of Öncüpınar border gate in Kilis Province on the Turkey/Syria border, which is currently closed.
“Turkey has allowed in huge numbers of people fleeing the horrors of war and humanitarian catastrophe. It must not close its doors to people in desperate need of safety,” said Sherif Elsayed-Ali, Deputy Director of Global Issues at Amnesty International.
“These people have fled air strikes and heavy fighting; they are likely to be traumatized and exhausted. Turkey must allow them to enter its territory and the international community must do all it can to ensure adequate support is given to the country.”
Amnesty International has documented widespread unlawful attacks on civilian areas and medical facilities by Syrian government forces throughout the conflict and increasingly by Russian state forces, who joined in support of the Syrian government in September last year. This includes evidence of the unlawful use of unguided bombs in densely populated areas and inherently indiscriminate cluster munitions.
“The joint Syrian-Russian onslaught on Aleppo is taking a huge toll on the civilian population, forcing many thousands to flee the attacks and fuelling fears of a potentially brutal ensuing siege as supply routes to opposition-held areas are cut. The international community can hardly claim to be surprised that we are now seeing this exodus,” said Elsayed-Ali.
“Yesterday’s donor conference in London pledged some $10 billion for people affected by the war in Syria, but these developments show just how critical and urgent their needs are. Turkey, along with Lebanon and Jordan, is currently hosting a vastly disproportionate number of refugees and it is essential that the international community follow through on their pledges and also provide a fair share of resettlement places for refugees.”
Despite the aid pledges yesterday the overall response of the international community to the crisis in Syria has also been woefully inadequate and agencies have had to cut back on the support they have given people in need. Funding and pledges for resettlement, whereby a country offers residency and assistance to refugees who have fled their countries of origin, as well as other safe and legal routes to safety, remain shamefully scarce.