ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey is building a refugee camp in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq to accommodate refugees from the ethnic Turkmen minority fleeing the rapid advance of Islamic State militants, a Turkish official said on Tuesday.
Turkish opposition parties had been urging Ankara to help the Turkmens, Iraq’s third largest ethnic group after Arabs and Kurds, who have close cultural and linguistic links with Turkey.
Turkey already hosts more than a million refugees from the conflict in neighboring Syria, of whom 300,000 live in state-run camps. During the 1991 Gulf War, half a million Iraqis fled to Turkey.
The Turkish Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate (AFAD) is setting up a camp to house 20,000 in the Fishkabur area of Iraq’s Dohuk province, to be managed by Turkmen authorities, the official said.
“The plan is to complete the camp in a week. It will be mainly for Turkmens fleeing their homes, but it will be open to anyone who has fled,” an AFAD official told Reuters.
“There is no preparation right now for building a camp or camps inside Turkey for those coming from Iraq,” he added. “There is no such need. There is no refugee exodus from Iraq, as was the case in Syria.”
Most recently, hundreds of Turkmen families fled the northwestern Iraqi town of Sinjar after Islamic State insurgents captured it. The United Nations says up to 200,000 people have escaped the town in all.
AFAD and other organizations have been sending humanitarian aid since June to Iraqi Turkmens affected by the conflict.
Reporting by Tulay Karadeniz and Selin Bucak; Editing by Daren Butler and Kevin Liffey