Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Life Goes on Inside Refugee Camp

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Life Goes on Inside Refugee Camp

Article excerpt

KIRKLARELI, Turkey -- Its gravel roadways lined with freshly planted flowers, Gazi Osman Pasa could be mistaken for a summer camp -- except for the gun-toting Turkish soldiers guarding the gate and almost 8,000 Kosovar refugees inside.

Unlike camps in Albania and Macedonia, Gazi Osman Pasa was not overcrowded. Customs and food in Turkey are similar to those in Kosovo. Residents were free to come and go.

Operated solely by the Turkish government, Gazi Osman Pasa, named for a victorious Turkish general, has been harboring refugees since 1989, when Bulgarians flooded in. They were followed in 1991 by Bosnians and since March by Kosovars.

The 200 or so Turks who run the camp have fine-tuned the process under the leadership of Caner Yildiz, camp director. Until March, he was in his eighth month as deputy governor of Kirklareli, a nearby town a few kilometers north of the camp and 50 or so kilometers south of the Turkish-Bulgarian border.

A flip chart next to Yildiz's desk reflected the camp's status:

7,458 refugees.

2,041 men.

2,314 women.

The rest are children: 1,506 girls, 1,597 boys.

Another 174 to 200 were due to arrive that evening, flown in from Macedonia, then bused from a nearby Turkish army air field.

Yildiz provided a breakdown of current housing facilities:

100 two-family homes

544 dormitory rooms, mostly for singles, including the children ages 13 to 18, who had arrived unaccompanied by family

1,800 tents housing 1,221 people.

"Everyday we are together all day here," Yildiz said via a translator, who is himself a refugee, "from early morning to late night."

Food and medical care were coordinated by the country's equivalent of the Red Cross, Turk Kizilayi, "the Red Crescent." Ahmet Coskun, a slender, slightly bowed man frequently beleagured by a beeping pager, had directed those efforts for 65 days and expected to continue "until the refugees leave. The director will stay, the workers will transfer in and out."

During a recent survey, the workers numbered 40, from cooks to nurses and doctors and the clerical staff who process incoming refugees, collecting information and sharing it with other refugee camps in an effort to reunite families. …

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