Last updated: 11 March, 2012

Syrians flee into Turkey after Idlib assault

Dozens of Syrian refugees have fled across the border into Turkey since Syrian troops stormed the rebel stronghold of Idlib near the border, a Turkish government official said on Sunday.

At least 189 Syrians have crossed into Turkey since Saturday, the official told AFP, adding the figure tended to increase.

Syrians had been crossing into Turkey at a rate of 40 to 50 a day, he noted, but the rate tripled in recent weeks as President Bashar al-Assad’s regime intensified its crackdown on opposition areas.

The recent influx comes as Syrian troops poured into the northwestern city of Idlib over the weekend after the Homs neighbourhood of Baba Amr was stormed on March 1 after a month-long blitz in which hundreds of people died.

With the latest arrivals, the total figure of Syrian refugees registered at the camps set up to provide refuge in Turkey’s southeastern province of Hatay has reached 12,519, said the official.

The arriving refugees are being placed in tent camps in Hatay, where members of the rebel Free Syrian Army, made up of deserters from the Syrian security forces, are also based.

The official declined to comment on the mental or physical state of the refugees fleeing the unrest as they were strictly advised by the government not to disclose any information.

Meanwhile, former UN chief Kofi Annan will visit visit Turkey on Monday after wrapping up his talks in Syria, a foreign ministry diplomat said.

Annan, whose appointment as United Nations-Arab League envoy to end the year-long bloodshed was welcomed by Ankara, will meet Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Tuesday.

As he will be in Turkey for a short period of time, Annan may not have time to visit Syrian refugee camps on the border province, said the diplomat.

Turkey, once a close ally of Syria, has been at the forefront of international criticism of the Damascus regime’s bloody crackdown on protests which has claimed over 7,500 lives since the start of the uprising in mid-March last year, according to UN estimates.