Thousands flee Syria for Turkey escaping aggression between rival military forces –

According to information received from the Turkish authorities this morning, William Spindler, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told reporters in Geneva that most of the new arrivals are Syrians escaping fighting between rival military forces in and around the key border town of Tel Abyad, which was controlled by militants and faces Akcakale across the border.He added that also included were 2,183 Iraqis from Mosul, Ramadi and Falujjah.People have been allowed to transverse at the Akcakale crossing and several points between Sanliurfa and Syria’s Raqqa province since 3 June, when fighting erupted.At the same time, UNHCR field staff said most refugees arrived exhausted, carrying just a few belongings. Some had walked for days.“UNHCR staff have visited several areas where people were crossing or waiting to cross since the arrivals began. This week, people have been fleeing directly to Akcakale to escape fighting in Tel Abyad,” Mr. Spindler elaborated.He said he was unable to confirm international media reports claiming that the attacking forces captured the town, but did say that the Akcakale border was calm this morning.At Akcakale, which lies some 80 kilometres north of the Syrian city of Raqqa, the Turkish authorities set up facilities to register and provide new arrivals with food and water, and vaccinate children.Mr. Spindler noted that most of the refugees are staying with friends or relatives in and around Akcakale, but some with special needs or no alternative have moved to the refugee camps of Derik and Suruc where they can be cared for. At the request of Turkey’s emergency relief agency – the Asian Federation against Involuntary Disappearances – UNHCR has provided 27,000 items of children’s clothing, 33,000 blankets and 8,000 mattresses for distribution by the Turkish authorities. “We are constantly assessing needs,” said Mr. Spindler.To recognize its vital role as a host country, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres has chosen to spend World Refugee Day, commemorated this Saturday 20 June, meeting evacuees in Turkey.According to the latest data available, Turkey is host to 1,772,535 registered Syrian refugees – more than any other in the world – with about 259,000 living in 23 camps set up and managed by the Government. Mr. Spindler concluded with an appeal to the international community “to continue to help shoulder the burden with Turkey and other neighbouring countries.”