Humanitarian and political background
Turkey hosts more refugees than any other country in the world, with over 3 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. The country also hosts a growing number of refugees from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and a number of African countries.
NRC started our country operation in Turkey in 2016.
270,000 of the Syrian refugees, less than a tenth, 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
Meanwhile, more than 30 years of conflict between the government and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) has resurfaced. A breakdown in peace negotiations with the PKK, which fights for an independent Kurdish state, has led to an escalation of violence.
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. Besides, we work in tandem with our Jordan and Lebanon operations.
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. To this end, NRC is providing Vocational Training courses in Ankara to refugee and host community members. We are running 16 different vocational program modules most of which are certified by the MoNE (Ministry of National Education). We provide trainings in 5 training centres. The participants, 55 percent out of which are women, receive 30 Turkish Lira per day according to their attendance, besides of transportation costs.
NRC aims at reaching its objective in livelihoods through the following:
- Strengthening refugee youths’ foundational, transferable and technical skills relevant to social and economic activities in their communities, using NRC’s Youth Education Pack (YEP) and with Turkish language courses;
- Supporting them in accessing employment and income generation opportunities through subsidized work permits;
- Knowledge building of procedural requirements for new business establishments in Turkey; and
- Linkages creation between youth, TVET providers and potential employers to enhance business and job opportunities that meet mutual interests.
- 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 late 2015, 2 out of 3 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.
Provide psycho-social support to children enrolled in the informal catch-up classes.
Regularly attend meetings with the Turkish government to advocate for an improved integration of refugee children into the Turkish public schools
- Coordinate with other NGOs and UN agencies for developing a harmonized informal education curriculum to be used by all agencies in Turkey.
Information, counselling and legal assistance (ICLA)
Our planned ICLA activities seek to provide essential information to refugees (namely in issues related to Temporary Protection, House, Land and Property, Work Permit, etc.), and advocate for a enhance protection mechanisms. We are working to initiate ICLA projects within multiservice centres run by a Turkish partner NGO and through community outreach so that Syrian refugees can receive timely and up-to-date legal information and legal assistance. We will also refer cases of sexual gender based violence and child protection to specialised agencies.
Our teams distribute winter kits for the cold winter months, including mattresses, carpets and warm clothing. Such support is increasingly complemented with unconditional cash payments that promote individual choice and help support the local economy. Beneficiaries are typically selected in close collaboration with local Turkish authorities. The families use most of the money for paying rents and bills. NRC looks into more opportunities to support vulnerable Syrians with multipurpose cash for basic needs, especially during the harsh winter months.
We want to make sure that Syrian refugees in Turkey have as much choice and flexibility as possible when providing for their families.
We are currently working in the Altındağ district of Ankara supporting 1,226 families with multipurpose cash grants (100 Turkish Lira – 30 USD per person per month for each family member) in line with the provisions of the Ministry of Families and Social Policies and the EU-funded Emergency Social Safety Net. Our food security activities give cash assistance to families, for food and other basic needs including rent and bills.