European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

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Humanitarian milestone: the EU's Emergency Social Safety Net reaches 1 million refugees in Turkey

The ESSN is a debit card programme where refugees receive a monthly cash grant. It has now reached one million beneficiaries. © WFP/D.Akkus

Launched in September 2016, and implemented by the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Turkish Red Crescent in collaboration with the Turkish government, the European Union's flagship humanitarian programme, the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN), is the largest ever humanitarian aid operation.

Visiting Turkey today, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides said: "Today is a milestone for the life-changing results achieved by our biggest ever aid programme; and for the EU delivering on its commitments to Turkey. We have made a difference for a staggering 1 million people already. With the commitment and work of our partners, the impact of the programme grows by the day. Turkey continues to host the largest refugee population in the world. It is our humanitarian and moral duty to help refugees that have fled war and persecution."

The €348 million programme, which is financed through the EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey, provides monthly transfers, equivalent to around €30 per person per month, plus quarterly top-ups, to vulnerable refugees. Assistance is channelled through a special debit card that can be used to purchase essential items in local shops. This approach is cost-effective and provides refugees with the dignity of choice while stimulating local economies. The EU and its partners will continue to pursue the project which aims to reach 1.3 million refugees by the end of 2017.


The EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey was set up in 2015 in response to the European Council's call for significant additional funding to support refugees in Turkey. It has a budget of €3 billion for 2016-2017. This consists of €1 billion from the EU budget, and €2 billion from the EU Member States. The total allocated for implementation under the EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey on humanitarian and non-humanitarian assistance now stands at €2.9 billion.

The European Commission funds several humanitarian aid programmes in Turkey. Other flagship projects include the Conditional Cash Transfer for Education (CCTE) project which helps refugee children attend school. The CCTE has already reached the families of over 72 000 children, and aims to reach 230 000 refugee children during its first year.

In addition to humanitarian assistance, the EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey focuses on education, migration management, health, municipal infrastructure, and socio-economic support.

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