Turkey currently hosts 4 million refugees, more than any other country in the world. 3.6 million of the refugee population in Turkey is made up of Syrians who fled the ongoing conflict that has ravaged their country for more than 8 years. Over 98% (UNHCR) of refugees in Turkey live outside camps and have growing but limited access to basic services. The European Union, in close cooperation with Turkish authorities, provides assistance to the most vulnerable people on the basis of humanitarian needs through 63 humanitarian projects contracted with 21 partner organisations.
The vast majority of refugees in Turkey live outside camps under challenging and often precarious circumstances. Turkey is making commendable efforts to provide registered refugees with access to basic rights and services, including education and healthcare. However, after years of displacement, many refugee families have depleted their resources. The cost of living and lack of access to a regular income are making it difficult for vulnerable families to meet their basic needs. Some feel they have no choice but to resort to negative coping mechanisms such as child labour or street begging; some families reduce their food consumption or live in substandard housing.
The European Union funds humanitarian projects to help vulnerable refugees and their host communities receive the support they need, in close coordination with Turkish authorities.
The EU’s humanitarian flagship programme in Turkey is the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN), a social assistance scheme that helps the most vulnerable among the refugee population to meet their daily needs through cash assistance. With €1.725 billion from the EU, the humanitarian organisations that the EU works with - in collaboration with the Turkish Red Crescent and Turkish government institutions - distribute debit cards that allow refugee families to buy what they need most. The ESSN scheme is the single largest humanitarian project in the history of the EU: as of October 2019, the ESSN is assisting around 1.7 million people. In addition, EU-funded partner organisations have distributed over 700,000 e-vouchers, food parcels or kits with other urgently needed items.
The EU has also contributed €104 million to bi-monthly cash transfers to vulnerable refugee families whose children attend school regularly under the ‘Conditional Cash Transfers for Education’ (CCTE). By mid-2019, CCTE had benefitted more than half a million children who attended school regularly. Thanks to EU funding, around 20,000 Syrian refugee children and young people also enrolled in accelerated learning programs helping them make up for lost years of schooling, where they also got basic literacy and numeracy classes, and Turkish language courses. Since 2017, the EU has also provided transportation to an average of 6,000 children per month to help them attend their formal and non-formal education activities.
These projects are complemented by a number of other humanitarian aid projects addressing protection issues, including legal counselling, psychosocial support, access to civil documentation, and specialised healthcare services.
Thanks to EU funding, humanitarian partner organisations have, for example, provided over 1 million primary healthcare consultations to refugees in 18 provinces.
EU humanitarian funding in Turkey currently stands at €2.4 billion already allocated under the EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey. The Facility, created in 2016 to assist Turkey in its large-scale efforts to support refugees, is funded from the EU budget and additional contributions from EU Member States. So far, the EU has contracted 63 humanitarian projects with 21 humanitarian organisations under the Facility to support refugees and vulnerable people in Turkey. These projects are complementary to the EU’s non-humanitarian assistance under the Facility for Refugees in Turkey, which focuses on education, health, migration management, municipal infrastructure and socio-economic support, and is channelled through the European Commission's Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations.