SYRIA

Amateur footage shows thousands of Syrian refugees packed along Turkish border

The Syrian army’s assault on the north-western town of Jisr al-Shughour and its surroundings has sent thousands of refugees fleeing towards the Turkish border. Nearly 7,000 Syrians have sought sanctuary in four refugee camps set up by the Turkish Red Crescent. Thousands more are still waiting to cross the border, living rough in rural areas just inside Syria. Our Observer, who lives in a village just along the border, has seen the flow of refugees.

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The Syrian army’s assault on the north-western town of Jisr al-Shughour and its surroundings has sent thousands of refugees fleeing towards the Turkish border. Nearly 7,000 Syrians have sought sanctuary in four refugee camps set up by the Turkish Red Crescent. Thousands more are still waiting to cross the border, living rough in rural areas just inside Syria. Our Observer, who lives in a village just along the border, has seen the flow of refugees. 

 

Several amateur videos show the miserable living conditions of a group of refugees who fled the repression in Jisr al-Shughour.

 

These videos were published on the YouTube account of a Syrian citizen who, when contacted by FRANCE 24, said they had been sent to him by one of his friends who lives near the Turkish border. Our contact's YouTube channel has proved reliable in the past. At several points in the video, the person filming stops to interview refugees who respond in Syrian dialect. Although these images are consistent with the eyewitness accounts our team has gathered over the phone, it remains very difficult to independently verify information from the ground in Syria given that the government has banned foreign correspondents from entering the country. 

 

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s troops launched an assault on Jisr al-Shughour on Friday June 10, allegedly to rid the town of “armed groups”. But refugees from the town say that the heavy fighting started after hundreds of mutinous police and soldiers decided to side with protesters. On June 12, Syrian state media reported that the army had “taken control” of the 50,000-strong town and was hunting down “armed terrorist groups” in the surrounding forests and mountains.

"Residents from nearby villages are bringing blankets and food to refugees"

Mohammed lives in the Syrian village of Kharba al-Joze, next to the Turkish border. He drove several families fleeing Jisr al-Shughour to the Turkish border in his van.

 

 

People began arriving at the border on June 8, as Syrian troops advanced towards Jisr al-Shughour. Since then, I have seen hundreds of families cross the border [the exodus accelerated over the weekend, prompting the Red Crescent to open a fourth refugee camp along the border].

 

A woman explains that her cousin was killed by Syrian troops before she fled from Jisr al-Shughour.

 

Hundreds of people have come from Jisr al-Shughour, as well as surrounding villages. They are starving, traumatised; many have lost family members who were either killed or arrested by Syrian forces [refugees in Turkey say that the army combed all villages in the area and arrested men between 18 and 40]. Not all are able to cross the border: the Turkish army is checking each refugee’s identity before letting them on Turkish soil and driving them to a camp [Turkish authorities are trying to avoid a re-make of the 1991 massive Kurdish exodus from Iraq].  

 

Those who aren’t able to cross over to Turkey try to build makeshift huts with sheets and cardboard to take shelter in. But there have been strong rains these past few days, so most of them are living in mud. The children catch cold or infections, many of them are sick. Villagers around here help them as much as possible, by bringing them food and dry blankets.

 

Refugees bake bread with flour and utensils given to them by local villagers. 

 

The situation remains extremely dire for these people. They have absolutely nothing, we don’t know if they’ll be able to cross the border. There are more and more of them, and the more they are, the slower they will get across.”

 

 

 

Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Peggy Bruguière.