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Turkey Sees Influx Of Refugees Fleeing ISIS

ARUN RATH, HOST:

Tens of thousands of terrified Kurds are fleeing the advancing forces of the so-called Islamic State in Syria and seeking refuge in Turkey. ISIS has attacked more than 20 border villages in Syria in the past week. An estimated 100,000 people have crossed into Turkey in the last two days after Turkish officials opened border crossings along its Syrian border. NPR Middle East correspondent Deborah Amos spent the day reporting there and is with us now. Hi, Deb.

DEBORAH AMOS, BYLINE: Hi there.

RATH: Can you tell us about what you've seen?

AMOS: On the border it is chaos. These are people who have been walking for miles. It's mostly women and children. The men stayed behind to fight. There are an estimated 220,000 people in this Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani on the other side of the border. And we have about half of them who have come across.

Syrian opposition officials are saying we have passed the 100,000 mark today. Many of them come with nothing. Suitcases, blankets - because they don't know where they're going. Some of them have relatives on this side of the border. And those are the lucky ones because they have a place to stay tonight.

RATH: Deb, it's kind of hard to get one's head around these numbers. And Turkey has already absorbed hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees. How are the Turkish relief authorities coping?

AMOS: Well, this has been a complete surprise. It happened over 24 or 48 hours. And all of the aid organizations here have been thrown for a loop with this one. The UN is calling for urgent action. Turkish officials are beginning to move the, you know, mechanism of aid.

But it's so many people. They were unexpected. So this has overwhelmed everybody on the border. And you could see that today. People don't have water. They don't have diapers for kids. They have nothing. They left with nothing because they saw that ISIS was advancing on these villages and they just fled.

RATH: Deb, Turkey has a difficult relationship with its own Kurdish population. How is the surge of Syrian Kurds complicating things there?

AMOS: It makes things very difficult and you could see that on the border today. There was tear gas when there were Turkish Kurds who were protesting to open the borders for Syrian Kurds. There are Turkish Kurds who are going in to fight. There are also Iraqi Kurds, who have announced they're coming here to fight against ISIS.

The Turks are not particularly happy to have another 100,000 Kurds coming into the country. They are spreading out in towns all along the border. And you can see cars moving - relatives picking them up. You know, there's great connections between this community between these borders - Kurds in Syria and Kurds in Turkey. And so the Turks were having a hard time -slow in opening the borders - opened two border posts today. They are trying to keep control of this, but 100,000 people - very difficult to do.

RATH: NPR's Deborah Amos near the Syrian-Turkey border. Thanks, Deb.

AMOS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.