The Turkish government says it will set up camps for 170,000 displaced people within Syria ahead of an influx of refugees from the Syrian region of Afrin.
A spokesman for Turkey’s foreign ministry, Hami Aksoy, said on Tuesday that new refugee camps would be established in nine different regions in Syria including Azaz, Elbil, Tugli, Teleffer, Naddah, Bardakh and Masad Rufi.
Turkish humanitarian agencies had earlier announced plans to establish camp areas around Azaz and Idlib if large numbers of people should head to the Turkish border to escape the ongoing bombardment in Afrin.
In January, the Turkish Red Crescent president Kerem Kinik told Reuters news agency that the organization was preparing to accommodate 50,000 people in five different camps near Afrin. The new camps would be in addition to two existing near Idlib. He also expressed hope that about 150,000 people would be allowed to return home to Aleppo after the fighting in Afrin was over.
230,000 Syrian refugees are living in camps on the Turkish side of the border, according to the Turkish government. The majority of refugees in Turkey, numbering more than 3 million, live outside the camps.
Afrin, in northwestern Syria, has been under heavy fire since Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch on January 20 to clear Kurdish militias from the region. On Wednesday, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said 2,960 people had been ‘neutralized’ – meaning they surrendered or were killed or captured.
Afrin is home to about 324,000 people, more than a third of whom are internally displaced, according to UN data. The renewed fighting has put the population at greater risk of death, injury and further displacement.
The Turkish military says Operation Olive Branch aims to establish security and stability along the border region and to protect Syrians from terrorist oppression, according to the country’s Anadolu news agency. In a statement, the Turkish foreign ministry has rejected US criticism of its operations in Afrin saying they were being carried out in self-defense according to the UN Charter.Meanwhile Turkey has announced plans to hold talks with Iran and Russia in April to discuss the crisis in Syria, with a preparatory meeting to be held this month. The three countries are responsible for four so-called de-escalation zones in Syria, including the territory of eastern Ghouta near the capital, Damascus.