Deputy prime minister says 'worst case scenario' could push its Syrian refugee population well above three million
The Turkish government fears that fierce fighting in Syria's Aleppo province will spark the arrival of up to 600,000 refugees at its border in a "worst case scenario", Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said on Monday.
"The worst case scenario that could happen in this region in the short term would be a new influx of 600,000 refugees at the Turkish frontier," Kurtulmus said after a cabinet meeting.
The clashes in the north of Aleppo province - sparked by a week-long government assault with Russian air support - have sent tens of thousands of people fleeing from their homes.
"As a consequence of this situation, we are seeing 200,000 people being forced to flee - 65,000 in the direction of Turkey and 135,000 inside Syria," Kurtulmus said.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said earlier Monday that some 30,000 people were already massed at the Turkish border.
Huge crowds of refugees, mainly women and children, have been forced to wait at the Oncupinar border crossing, which remains closed with only medical emergencies allowed through.
"Our objective for now is to keep this wave of migrants on the other side of Turkey's borders as much as is possible, and to provide them with the necessary services there," Kurtulmus said.
The Turkish government has insisted for several days that its open-door policy to refugees fleeing the Syrian war remains unchanged and that it is ready, if necessary, to accommodate a new wave of arrivals.
"Obviously, as always, we will provide for our Syrian brothers and accept them when necessary," Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
But he added that his country, which is hosting some 2.7 million Syrian refugees, should not be expected "to shoulder the refugee issue alone".