Turkish border cities host almost half of Syrian refugees

Official figures indicate that almost half of the 3.4 million Syrian refugees settled in Turkey are concentrated in cities bordering their homeland, while Istanbul also remains a major hub.

Turkish Red Crescent staff deliver clothes and shoes to al-Ahmad family in the city of Kilis. The family of nine, including quintuplets, relies on aid as the parents are unemployed. March in Syria will mark the seventh year of the start of an uprising that turned into an all-out civil war. Since the conflict started, Turkey has been the first destination for the majority of displaced people seeking a safe haven. The latest figures show about 1.5 million of the 3.4 million refugees from Syria live in Hatay, Gaziantep, Kilis, Şanlıurfa and Mardin, which border Syria. Istanbul, the country's most populated city with 14.6 million residents, has 537,829 refugees.

Refugees from Syria account for about 4.29 percent of the total population and Turkey hosts the largest refugee population from Syria in the world, something Ankara repeatedly boasts about.

Ankara also criticized the international community for not funneling sufficient humanitarian aid for refugees in Turkey and not taking in more refugees.

In Kilis, which was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize two years ago for hosting more Syrian refugees than its actual population, more than 131,000 Syrian refugees reside. The population in the city located on the border is slightly above 130,000.

After the conflict broke out in Syria, the city came under fire by the terrorist group Daesh on the other side of the border and was a gateway for a Turkey-backed offensive against the group by the Syrian opposition in 2016. Statistics show that number of refugees account for 29 percent of population in Hatay, another border city, while it accounts for 23 percent of the population in Şanlıurfa. Rates are lower in Gaziantep and Mardin, two other border cities where Syrians make up 17 percent and 11 percent of the population, respectively.

Bayburt, one of the least populated cities in Turkey that is located in the country's northeastern region, took the title of the city with the least refugees from Syria at just 57.

This can be explained by its distance to the border as it is followed by Artvin, Bartın and Gümüşhane, other cities in the northernmost Black Sea region.

Antalya, a Mediterranean city popular among holidaymakers from all around the world, also hosts a significantly low number of only 563 refugees from war-torn Syria.

The choice of border cities among the refugees stems from the fact they host a lot of relatives of Syrians because Syria was once ruled by the Ottomans. Others choose border cities to stay for a quicker return home in case of improved security. Indeed, as Turkish authorities announced in December 2017, some 75,000 Syrians returned to their hometowns liberated from Daesh by the Syrian opposition.