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The Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN): Offering a lifeline to vulnerable refugees in Turkey

© IFRC 2020

Turkey currently hosts the largest refugee population in the world, close to 4 million. Some 3.6 million of them are Syrians who fled the war that continues to ravage their country.

Despite Turkey’s commendable efforts to provide registered refugees with access to basic rights and services, including education and health care, many find themselves facing challenging and often precarious circumstances.

After years of displacement, refugee families have depleted their resources, and the cost of living and lack of access to a regular income make it difficult for them to meet their basic needs.

Thanks to EU humanitarian funding and a partnership between the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the Turkish Red Crescent Society and Turkish government institutions, over 1.5 million refugees living in Turkey receive humanitarian support through cash assistance.

As of July 2021, 346,000 most vulnerable people receive cash assistance from the development part of the EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey, managed by the Commission's Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations.

The Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) is the biggest humanitarian programme in the history of the EU, designed to help the most vulnerable refugees pay for the things they need most. Currently, the European Commission funds the programme until early 2022.

Refugee families currently receive 155 Turkish Lira (about €16) monthly per family member, enabling them to decide for themselves how to cover essential needs like rent, transport, bills, food and medicine. The programme offers additional quarterly top-ups based on family size.

The ESSN card can be used in shops, just like a normal debit card. But it is not just a cash card. It’s an acknowledgement that, despite their hardships, refugees have the right to choose how to manage their own lives.

This also positively affects host communities by allowing the refugees to participate in the daily life of the community and contribute to the local economy. 

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