Syrian refugees in Turkey could top 1 million by end of year, UNHCR warns

The number of Syrian refugees in Turkey could reach 1 million by the end of the year as the conflict deepens and the number of civilians escaping the violence rises, the United Nations refugee agency said on Sunday.

“In the case of Turkey, the number [of refugees] by the end of the year might even reach 1 million. We have heard from Lebanon that they already have 1 million [refugees]. So, the numbers are absolutely high. Is the international community prepared for the numbers that might come? The short answer is no,” United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representative Carol Batchelor told the Anatolia news agency.

There are currently over 400,000 Syrians who have fled the three-year-old conflict in their country, which according to the UN has killed more than 70,000 people.

Batchelor said the number of refugees anticipated for June had already been surpassed in March, which she said has forced the UNHCR to revise its Regional Response Plan.

The UNHCR representative also said international donors had failed to fulfill promises they made in a January conference in Kuwait.
“I am sorry to say that, although many pledges were made in Kuwait, we have not seen the full scope of fulfillment of those pledges,” said Batchelor. At the Kuwait conference donors pledged $1.5 billion in aid to Syrian refugees.

“If there is no support, Syrians could be in a position where they do not have shelter, food, medicine and education. The UN support system can have those needs met. We can provide shelter, food, medicine, if the support is there to empower and enable us. If the international community ensures the support, we can procure those items to people. Yet we cannot pull them out of thin air; they have to be paid for,” she said.

Batchelor also praised a law regarding foreigners and international protection that passed in Parliament early this month and was approved by President Abdullah Gül last week.

The law, which was recently adopted by lawmakers, will protect refugees from Syria and other non-European nations as “conditional refugees” instead of the previous description of “guests.”

“They will be allowed to remain in Turkey until they are placed in a third country,” read the law, which reserves full refugee status for Europeans only.

“Turkey is on a very positive track. This law is an extremely progressive, forward-looking and rights-based law; we look forward to continued collaboration with Turkey for its full implementation,” Batchelor said.

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