Read caption Recently displaced Syrian families walking towards the Bab Al Salama border crossing to Turkey. Photo: NRC

NRC in Turkey

Millions of Syrians have fled over the northern border into Turkey. But conditions for most refugees remain precarious.

In 2016 NRC reached


individuals, with education and shelter.

Humanitarian and political background

Turkey hosts more refugees than any other country in the world, with over 2.9 million registered as refugees throughout the country. Turkey's Interior Ministry reports that almost all of its 81 provinces are now temporarily home to Syrians. In addition, the country hosts some 300,000 asylum applicants and refugees from 85 countries, including a growing number of refugees from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and a number of African countries.

NRC started our country operation in Turkey in 2016.

Precarious conditions

Less than a tenth of the Syrian refugees in Turkey, reside in 28 camps. The rest live mostly in the border cities and the urban centres of Istanbul, Izmir and Ankara. This has created huge strains on Turkey's public services and infrastructure, which are unable to support the sharp influx. Meanwhile, the Turkish authorities have closed the border with Syria, only allowing special cases across, including the very sick.

In Turkey, life remains difficult. Facing language barriers and poverty, Syrian families struggle to feed themselves, pay rent and send their children to school.

Back in Syria we used to think about the future. We used to think about being doctors or teachers. Now all we think about is how to feed our families. We're carrying a heavy load on our shoulders. It's beyond our age.

17-year-old Syrian boy, Islahiye, Turkey

An ambivalent safe haven

All Syrians in Turkey are granted a "temporary protection" status under the 2014 Law on Foreigners and International Protection. The law guarantees non-refoulement (no forced returns) and provides schooling and free health care. But in reality, insufficient resources hamper the government's ability to provide these services fully and timely, and a lack of awareness, language barriers and other challenges prevent many refugees from accessing the services they are legally entitled to.

In addition, Syrians receive the above mentioned services only if they reside in the provinces where they are registered with DGMM (Directorate General of Migration Management).

Syrians with temporary protection status are not fully recognised refugees, meaning they do not enjoy the rights guaranteed under the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol.

Opportunities for Syrians in Turkey, however, are gradually taking hold. New legislation allows more Syrians to work formally, and NRC is advocating for Turkey to take more steps to support those seeking asylum in the country.

Onward migration to Europe

Because many Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans struggle to survive after they arrive in Turkey, a large number are making the decision to move onwards to Europe. They make the dangerous journey by sea to Greece, or enter through the Balkans, often spending the last of their savings to pay human smugglers.

The EU-Turkey Agreement that came into effect on 20 March 2016 has lead to the deportation of refugees and migrants in Greece back to Turkey.

NRC in Turkey

Since late 2015, NRC has been providing both short and long-term assistance to Syrian and other refugees in need as well as vulnerable members of the Turkish host community.

As we scale up our operations, we are finding ways to help refugees rebuild their lives and integrate into Turkish society.

NRC has offices in Ankara, the capital, and Gaziantep, on the southern border with Syria.

NRC plays an active role in the NGO community in southern Turkey, and we work in tandem with our Jordan and Lebanon operations. Read more about our direct and partnered work inside Syria.

NRC plays an active role in the NGO community in southern Turkey. It is the INGOs with largest activities in Ankara and has very close relations with Turkish governmental bodies and NGOs and with Syrian grass-roots organizations.

Youth and livelihoods

Our team is working to ensure that vulnerable youth are equipped to transition to safe and decent livelihoods and contribute to improved household economy and social cohesion in their host communities.

NRC provides Turkish Language and Vocational Training courses (including life skills development) -  approved and certified by the Ministry of National Education - to refugee and host community members. Activities are designed to ensure participation from women and financially vulnerable individuals, including covering the cost of transportation, providing child-care, and supplementing possible lost earnings due to attendance through a daily stipend to trainees.  

When training is complete, NRC supports employment through:

  • Job mentorship.
  • Linking trainees with potential employers.
  • Facilitating access to work permits.
  • Advocate with the Government of Turkey in order to allow refugees to work in provinces different from the ones they are residing.


It's my dream to complete my studies. It breaks my heart that I left my studies behind.

24-year-old Syrian young woman, Islahiye, Turkey

As of January 2017, 40 per cent of school-aged Syrian refugee children in Turkey were not enrolled in formal education programmes. Nevertheless, the Turkish government, the UN and many INGOs hope to change this and aim to have all Syrian children attending school towards the end of 2017. Our teams are working to help children go to school. Our education activities, in partnership with a Turkish NGO running multiservice centres, aim at the following:

  • Target out-of-school children with informal catch-up classes and Turkish courses, so they can fill learning gaps, reduce the language barrier and subsequently transition to public Turkish schools.

  • Provide information to families on the importance on enrolling their children into public Turkish school and provide them with information on the enrolment procedures.

Information, counselling and legal assistance (ICLA)


In 2017, NRC will initiate ICLA projects in several provinces. Our services will equip populations of concern to navigate the administrative, bureaucratic, and legal challenges in accessing rights and services.

Information campaigns are combined with targeted outreach activities to identify the most vulnerable and provide them with more direct, gender-sensitive support, such as legal counselling, accompaniment, and referrals to appropriate services and support mechanisms (e.g. referring cases of sexual and gender based violence and child protection to specialized agencies).

Maximizing synergies with NRC’s other programme components, ICLA activities focus on issues pertaining to employment and work permits, business development and access to education. Civil Documentation and Housing, Land & Property rights are other important focus areas. 

NRC in Turkey

Country Director

Youri Saadallah


Budget 2017
33 Million NOK
International Staff
Areas of Operations
Ankara, Gaziantep, and Konya provinces, with planned expansion to Urfa
National Staff