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Syria: 100,000 trapped between Islamic State and Turkish border

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An estimated 100,000 people are currently trapped in the Azaz district of Syria between Islamic State and the Turkish border.

The decision of European countries to close their doors to Syrian refugees is not only an abdication of their responsibilities, but it is also discouraging Turkey from receiving new refugees.

As a result, trapped civilians are cornered in barely 25 square kilometres where on one side they face the frontline with Islamic State, less than five kilometres away.

On the other side, they are met with the Kurdish-controlled Afrin district and the border with Turkey – which is closed except for medical emergencies.

After countless displacements from military offensives, there is no place left for these people to escape

Trapped in isolation

Today, with fighting so close people are in imminent danger of being engulfed by the violence and falling under Islamic State control.

“We are trying to cope and forget that we have lost our homes, but the reality is that we are trapped in an isolated land, with nowhere to go”, said Yahia Jarrad, nurse supervisor in MSF’s Al Salamah hospital in Azaz district.

“The Turkish government and the Turkish people are making an immense effort to help Syrian refugees, they are already hosting almost three million people,” said Pablo Marco, MSF Middle East operations manager.

“But, today the people of Azaz can only count on them. We ask Turkey to show this generosity once again and open its border to those trapped in Azaz”.

EU-Turkey deal

“Instead of fixating on how to stop refugees from reaching Europe, the EU must work with Turkey to speed up the process of granting asylum to Syrian refugees. Europe must honour its moral and legal commitments by granting asylum to those fleeing this brutal conflict.” continued Marco.

“After countless displacements in the region from military offensives, there is no place left for people to escape. These families, including children and the elderly, have either held on to their desire to remain in Syria or have had to stay in the country as they lack the means to leave.

“But now their lives are at risk and the world must honour their right to safety and protection”

MSF staff displaced

MSF and other organisations have been supporting the people of Azaz in desperate conditions over recent months; witnessing markets and hospitals being bombed and entire villages fleeing combat.

Most MSF staff have become displaced themselves, joining tens of thousands in crowded and overwhelmed camps or informal settlements without basic services.

Last Friday, MSF had to evacuate the patients of Al Salamah hospital and close the facility as the frontline drew too close. MSF teams are still stabilising and referring patients to other facilities and distributing relief items to those fleeing.




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Sydney Chesterfield

Poet, Playwright, Philosopher, Humanitarian, mad lover of children and unflinching fighter for equality on all grounds viz. Women's rights, child rights, sine die.

Twitter: @syd_field