Saudi Arabia builds refugee camp for Syrians

Published August 6th, 2013 - 07:36 GMT
Photo used for illustrative purposes (Albawaba/J. Zach Hollo)
Photo used for illustrative purposes (Albawaba/J. Zach Hollo)

Saudi Arabia’s National Campaign to Support Syrians has set up more than 5,000 tents for Syrian refugees in Turkey. The tents were erected with the help of the Turkish Crisis Management Authority.

Khaled Al-Salma, director of the campaign’s office in Turkey, said the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah, had instructed them to provide the Syrian refugees with shelter, health care and food.

He said the new tents would play a role in alleviating the suffering of refugees. “We have built these tents in areas where the largest number of refugees are located. We consider this job as our religious, moral and humanitarian duty,” he added.

The campaign had previously distributed food packets among the refugees in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. About 1.8 million Syrians have fled their country for its neighboring states and beyond since the start of the civil war in March 2011.

Ankara has adopted an “open door policy” for Syrian refugees. The government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been getting much international praise for this, with the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) characterizing the Syrian camps in Turkey as “the best refugee camps ever seen” in its April 30 report “Blurring the Borders: Syrian Spillover Risks for Turkey.”

While highly pleasing initially, such praise is now seen by government officials as hollow. These officials indicate that the cost of looking after the refugees has reached the $1 billion mark, while international assistance has not exceeded $100 million.

This was also underlined by Kemal Kirisci, from the Brookings Institution in Washington, who pointed out in a June 27 blog post the urgent need to assist Turkey as it tries to cope with a major international humanitarian disaster.

According to figures obtained by Kirisci from government sources, Turkey is currently hosting close to half a million Syrian refugees. As of mid-June, over 200,000 reside in one refugee camp, while nearly 290,000 live outside these camps. Around 100,000 internally placed Syrians are reported to be awaiting entry into Turkey.

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