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[Editor's note: Today the United Nation's mark World Refugee Day, paying tribute to the more than 42 million people worldwide that have been forced from their homes due to such causes as persecution and war. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's special message underlined the need for action, especially due to the fact that the number of people that sought refugee across borders last year was the highest since 2000: “Despite budget constraints everywhere, we must not turn away from those in need. Refugees leave because they have no choice. We must choose to help.”
In the current issue of World Policy Journal, Istanbul-based writer Jenna Krajeski examines Turkey's central role granting safe haven to the thousands of Syrian refugees pushing across the border due to the on-going massacres in their country. She explains how Ankara should position itself to maintain a key position in the restructuring of Syria in a post-Assad world.]
REYHANLI, TURKEY—On a Friday in early April, for the first time since opening almost one year earlier, Turkey’s Reyhanli refugee camp is quiet. Its tight security—barbed wire, guards, and a large swath of farmland isolating it from the next town—has been loosened ever so slightly by the constant movement of Syrian refugees north from Reyhanli along the Syria-Turkey border to a new camp, 90 miles away, in Kilis. Guards lounge at Reyhanli’s half-open gates, letting journalists and refugees pass with a nonchalance compounded by exhaustion. Collapsed canvas tents lie in mounds beside their swept-clean concrete beds. Near the gendarme station, children swarm around a custard cake, a present from Turkey’s Anatolia News Agency, the agency’s logo decorating the top in blue frosting. But in the background of the isolated, half-empty camp, the acrid black plumes coming off nearby mounds of burning garbage are like smoke signals.
Most of the hundreds of remaining refugees had just arrived the night before from northern Syria, where escalating battles between rebels and the Syrian Army had pushed Syrian civilians into Turkey. They wear expressions of the newly displaced, numbed by shock or animated by anger. One woman is furious about the lack of international intervention. “You are giving Bashar more time to kill his people,” she yells, invoking the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, whose attempts to suppress the rebellion in his own country have sent thousands of opposition fighters across the border.
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[Photo: Getty Images]