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

© EU/Eren Aygün

Turkey currently hosts the largest refugee population in the world, more than 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 healthcare, 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 European Union 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 1.7 million refugees living in Turkey receive humanitarian support through cash assistance. 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.

Refugee families currently receive 120 Turkish Lira (about €17) monthly per family member, enabling them to decide for themselves how to cover essential needs like rent, transport, bills, food and medicine. 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 should have the freedom to choose how to manage their own lives. This also creates a positive impact on host communities by allowing the refugees to participate in the daily life of the community and contribute to the local economy. The programme offers additional quarterly top-ups based on family size, with special payments to families with members who require specialised care.

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Thanks to EU funded cash assistance in Turkey, vulnerable refugee families can buy what they need most – for example ingredients to prepare healthy and nutritious meals. © European Union, 2018

The funds supporting the ESSN are part of the “EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey,” created as a response to the EU Member States’ call for significant additional funding to support refugees in Turkey. The Facility is designed to ensure that the needs of refugees and host communities are addressed in a comprehensive and coordinated manner. 

Last updated
25/06/2020