Syrian Refugees May Be Wearing Out Turks' Welcome Refugees continue to flee the ongoing violence in Syria. Nearly 12,000 are living in camps in southern Turkey; several thousand more live outside the camps. They've started setting up schools and clinics, but their Turkish hosts are starting to question how long they want their guests around.
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Syrian Refugees May Be Wearing Out Turks' Welcome

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Syrian Refugees May Be Wearing Out Turks' Welcome

Syrian Refugees May Be Wearing Out Turks' Welcome

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Nearly 12,000 Syrian refugees are living in camps in the southern Turkish province of Hatay. And there are several thousand more Syrians living outside the camps. They started setting up schools and clinics, and some of their Turkish hosts are beginning to wonder how long they'll have to keep the welcome mat out. NPR's Sean Carberry has the story.


SEAN CARBERRY, BYLINE: Rows of young kids missing various front teeth are reciting their lessons. The girls dressed in shades of pink and sporting Hello Kitty backpacks; the boys in dark clothing, and looking a little restless. This could be the scene in almost any school in the world.


CARBERRY: But this makeshift school is in a concrete farmhouse on the outskirts of Antakya, Turkey. And the 156 students aged six to 13 are all refugees from cities and towns across Syria. The school's only been in this house for two weeks. Before that, students were having classes outside in a public park because the Turkish government kicked them out of their previous building.

MUSTAFA SHAKIR: (Foreign language spoken)

CARBERRY: Mustafa Shakir is a school administrator and Imam from the Syrian city of Latakia. He's cofounder of this school that started out four months ago with 15 students in his apartment in Antakya.

SHAKIR: (Through Translator) When we start to think about the school, our children, they shouldn't be out in the street or just stay in the house and watching the news. And we feel that it will be, like, part of the revolution, our duty now to make the schools and educate the children.

CARBERRY: Shakir says that President Bashar Al-Assad is trying to break the Syrian people and educating the children will make the revolution stronger. This school serves the nearly 250 Syrian families living in Antakya city. And the families here are getting other services too, including health care. Twenty-four-year-old Wael Kurdy is one of a small group of young doctors and medical students looking after wounded Syrians. During the day, he visits Syrian patients in Turkish hospitals. He often spends evenings in this cafe across the street from the city's public hospital.

WAEL KURDY: (Foreign language spoken)

CARBERRY: Wael flips through a stack of receipts and patient records. He says few of the Syrians are getting appropriate medical care.


CARBERRY: As we talk, his phone rings. It's a Syrian woman who says her medication has run out and wants his help getting more.

KURDY: (Through Translator) We decided to make a public clinic for the refugees outside the camps. This came from our own experiences here. My mother was sick and I didn't know where to take her.


CARBERRY: The small clinic is located in a bottom floor apartment in a residential neighborhood where cats and chickens roam the dirt streets. Dr. Abu Baha shows us around.

ABU BAHA: We have many patients in the hospital, but in this apartment we have only six beds. We intend to rent a bigger building.

CARBERRY: Some Turks in Hatay Province are starting to lose patience with the refugees. While many say they don't mind or even notice the Syrians, a recent feature in a local paper quoted business owners who said they're fed up. They're losing money because unrest on their border has dampened tourism in Hatay Province. And some locals are starting to feel they are being taken advantage of by the refugees.

YASAR ALTUNAY: (Through Translator) We've done all this help, we've helped them in any way we can, but it's like they expect it.

CARBERRY: Yasar Altunay(ph) runs a small grocery store a few blocks from the clinic. He says he and other locals have cosigned leases, provided phone and Internet service to the refugees, and given them food. Altunay has rented out his properties to a number of Syrian activists.

ALTUNAY: (Through Translator) They can take a house and turn it into a barn in the matter of a month. But my hope is that, you know, things go back to some sense of normalcy in Syria and they can go back, and that'll be better for Turkey as well and it'll be better for our economy.

CARBERRY: But that doesn't look like it's going to happen anytime soon. And for now, the kids seem perfectly happy just being kids in the little playground of their new school.


CARBERRY: And the teachers hope the Turkish government will let them keep the school running as long as needed. Sean Carberry, NPR News.

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