ANKARA - Turkey has spent more than $600 million sheltering refugees from the almost two-year-old conflict in neighboring Syria, Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek said on Friday.
Of that total, the central government had spent 610.5 million lira ($344 million) from its budget by Feb. 5, Simsek said on his official Twitter account.Local authorities have provided the rest, he added.
Turkey has been one of Syrian President Bashar Assad's fiercest critics, hosting a NATO Patriot missile defense system to protect against a spillover of violence and leading calls for international intervention to end the conflict.
The United Nations said on Friday that refugee numbers have spiked, with around 5,000 people fleeing each day, 2,000 more a day than last year's figures.
Turkey is sheltering more than 177,000 refugees in 16 camps, although tens of thousands more Syrians have crossed into Turkey and are staying with relatives or in private accommodation, according to the country's disaster management agency.