Going back, looking for tent in northern Syria

Syrians entering northern Syria through the Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey, following the earthquake disaster - March 2, 2023 (Bab al-Hawa Crossing)

Syrians entering northern Syria through the Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey, following the earthquake disaster - March 2, 2023 (Bab al-Hawa Crossing)


Enab Baladi – Ahmed Deeb

“Living in one tent with 11 people is better than staying on the street without shelter.” There were no options for the Syrian refugee Firas Khaled and his family but to go from Turkey to northern Syria after the earthquake that struck southern Turkey and four Syrian governorates on February 6.

The forty-something-year-old man and his family, consisting of six people, chose to go to his brother’s tent in the countryside of Idlib after they had no means to stay in Turkey after surviving the earthquake that resulted in the death of more than 50,000 people, with an “unfinished toll.”

The case of Khaled and his family is one of the hundreds of cases in the stricken Turkish provinces, which headed to northern Syria, which is witnessing a deterioration in the living and economic situation and was affected by earthquake damage and declared as a stricken area.

Back to displacement

The young refugee, who has been in Turkey for ten years under the temporary protection law, told Enab Baladi that his house, located in the Islahiyeh area in the state of Gaziantep, southern Turkey, has been covered with cracks and fractures, and it is no longer safe to stay, as the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) informed him.

The option of heading north was difficult, but it was “the easiest of the worst,” according to Khaled’s description, as he does not have any relatives and acquaintances in other Turkish states, in addition to the high financial cost of moving and settling in another state.

He temporarily took refuge in a shelter for those affected by the earthquake in the Islahiyeh area, but the cold weather and the lack of sanitation networks in the center led to the family members contracting some diseases.

With the border crossings announcing the opening of their doors to receive the affected Syrians from the afflicted states, the young man and his family headed through the Bab al-Hawa border crossing to Idlib countryside to share with his brother the living in a tent that currently houses 11 people.

For his part, refugee Adnan al-Rayya, 53, and his family of eight were forced to go to al-Karama camp in northern Syria, where his son resides, after surviving the earthquake and safely emerging from under the rubble of their destroyed home in Antakya.

“I no longer own anything in Turkey. We lost the house and everything in it,” al-Rayya said, adding that the options of staying in Turkey with the continuation of the disaster and its repercussions have become impossible, which forced him to go to northern Syria.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared a state of emergency for a period of three months in ten “stricken” Turkish states, a day after the devastating earthquake, whose epicenter was the Turkish state of Kahramanmaraş, with a magnitude of 7.7, followed by another earthquake in the same state with a magnitude of 7.6 at noon on the same day, describing it with “one of the biggest disasters not only in the history of Turkey but also in the region and the world.”

The number of Syrian refugees residing in the areas affected by the earthquake is 1,750,000 people, while the total number of Syrian refugees in Turkey is about 3.5 million.

The border crossings of Bab al-Hawa, Tel Abyad, Bab al-Salama, and Jarablus with Turkey announced that all Syrians residing in the earthquake zone who hold the temporary protection card (Kimlik) would be allowed a temporary visit to Syria, according to conditions, provided that the minimum period for their stay is one month from the date of entry, and that the period of their stay within the Syrian territory does not exceed six months at most.

The number of Syrians who returned through the border crossings with Turkey during the leave designated for the earthquake victims in Turkey reached 42,000 until March 1.

The North is already “stricken”

The condition of the northwestern regions of Syria was not better than the affected Turkish states, as they were affected by the earthquake on February 6, which resulted in the death of 2,274 people and the injury of 12,400 people, with tens of thousands of families in need of shelter and medical treatment.

The earthquake also resulted in a great need for shelter, food, clothing, and supplies for hundreds of families who returned to northern Syria.

Khaled described the situation in Syria as “very difficult,” saying that he and his brother live on humanitarian aid provided by organizations.

Despite many attempts, Khaled has not yet been able to obtain a tent to live in with his family and to ease the burden on his brother, who lives with him in the same tent.

In his turn, al-Rayya described life in Syria as “non-existent” and that he had to buy blankets and some necessities after he arrived in northern Syria and was unable to obtain a tent, as it became a dream for many Syrians whose homes were destroyed by the earthquake.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the number of buildings destroyed by the earthquake in northwestern Syria reached ten thousand.

More than 4.6 million people live in northwestern Syria, of whom 2.9 million are internally displaced, and more than two million live in camps.

After the earthquake, dozens of camps were set up in response to the disaster, in addition to the squatter camps scattered extensively in the north.

The crisis worsened in those camps after the owners of houses that were not affected by the earthquake chose to stay in tents for fear of a new earthquake or aftershocks that could demolish the remaining houses.

The rescue agency, the Syria Civil Defense (SCD), also known as The White Helmets, estimated the number of families that were displaced as a result of the earthquake in northern Syria at about 40,000 families, while the number of completely destroyed buildings reached about 550, and more than 1,570 buildings were partially damaged, in addition to hundreds of cracked buildings.

In a previous report, Enab Baladi monitored the needs of the people in northern Syria, which are tents, heating, and toilets in the new shelters, in addition to the shortage of foodstuffs and infant formula.

The number of people in need of humanitarian assistance rose to 14.6 million, an increase of 1.2 million compared to 2021. Such a number is expected to reach 15.3 million people in 2023.



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