Another refugee crisis at Turkish border
As attacks move further north in Idlib, people are increasingly squeezed into a small area near the closed border with Turkey, which was already hosting hundreds of thousands of displaced people. Children make up more than 60% of those who’ve been driven from shelter.
Turkey and the European Union are on a new collision course because of the millions of war refugees and migrants it is looking after. Tens of thousands, mostly Syrians exiled in Turkey, are heading towards the borders with Bulgaria and Greece. That's after Turkey eased border controls following the killing of 34 Turkish soldiers in an air raid in Idlib.
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has long threatened to open what he calls the "floodgates of refugees" if European allies did not provide more support in Syria. Erdogan has accused the EU of failing to keep its promises in a deal to send billions of dollars in return for sheltering Syrian refugees.
Turkey is hosting 3.7 million Syrian refugees, as well as migrants from other countries such as Afghanistan - but had previously stopped them from leaving for Europe under an aid-linked deal with the EU.
"We said months ago that if it goes on like this, we will have to open the doors. They did not believe us, but we opened the doors yesterday," President Erdogan said in Istanbul. “The European Union needs to keep its promises. We don't have to take care of this many refugees, to feed them."
Erdogan says 18,000 migrants have crossed Turkish borders into Europe after the country "opened the doors" for them to travel. The number is expected to hit 25,000 to 30,000 in the coming days, he said. “Turkey could no longer deal with the amount of people fleeing Syria's civil war.”
Greece says it has blocked thousands of migrants from entering "illegally" from Turkey. Greek authorities fired tear gas to attempt to disperse the crowds.
Furthermore, the humanitarian crisis in Idlib has reached a new level of horror as 10 schools are hit in a ruthless attack. 2.1 million children in Syria are currently out of school. As ongoing violence continues to cause mass displacement, 900,000 vulnerable people in northwest Syria are facing a brutally cold winter. Children are dying every day from freezing temperatures.
Many of Syria’s children and their families live in areas where basic services are almost non-existent. The essential infrastructure they rely on - such as healthcare, education and water and hygiene services - has been decimated, and at least 2.5 million children have had to flee their homes and are now internally displaced, living in terrible conditions.
"It's already a catastrophe, but we could see a new humanitarian crisis the scale of which we cannot imagine," Sahar Atrache, a senior advocate at Refugees International, told ABC News from the Turkish-Syrian border. At least a dozen people have died from that cold, with aid groups reporting that they are out of tents or land to pitch them on for the families pouring into the region.