ANKARA: About 1,000 Syrian refugees, including a defecting general, crossed into Turkey in the last 24 hours, the foreign ministry said on Thursday, the one-year anniversary of the Syrian revolt.
“The number of Syrian refugees currently staying in Turkey boomed by 1,000 in a single day and climbed to 14,700 total,” ministry spokesperson Selguk Unal told reporters in Ankara.
The latest wave of arrivals included a defecting general who crossed the border to join the rebel forces which have a base in Turkey's Hatay province on the border with Syria, according to Unal. “With the Syrian general who arrived yesterday, we now host seven generals on our side of the border,” he said.
Another group of 700 Syrians had arrived in Turkey on Tuesday night, signaling that the number of Syrians arriving at the border might continue to increase rapidly.
Turkish officials based on the border had to relocate some of the 1,000 refugees to the nearby provinces of Gaziantep and Kilis, where the government is setting up additional camps to house the thousands that have flocked to Turkey in the last month.
“We are getting ready for any scenario, there is the expectation that the numbers will rise,” Unal said.
In Sanliurfa province, near the halfway point of Turkey's 910-kilometre (560-mile) border with Syria, Turkey has already started building a massive camp site that can house up to 20,000 people, Anatolia news agency reported Wednesday.
Turkey is also establishing a “city” in Kilis, between Hatay and Sanliurfa, made of prefabricated homes to house the refugees, with some 10,000 due to be initially transfered to the site.
Although Turkey advocates a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis that has claimed 8,500 lives according to rights groups, Unal noted that the country was nevertheless “ready for any possibility.”
Following the Syrian army rampages in the restive neighbourhood of Baba Amr in Homs and in the rebel stronghold Idlib, the number of Syrians arriving at the border has escalated sharply.