Refugees in Turkey impose a crisis on the country, as it is currently hosting over 3 million people — the largest refugee population in the world. Syrian nationals embody a majority of the refugee population — a consequence of the devastation inflicted by five years of civil war.

Here are 10 facts about Turkey’s refugee population:

  1. As of July 28, 2016, United Nations High Commission for Refugees, (UNHCR) reports that there are 2.7 million registered Syrian refugees in Turkey. Those registered as of July 31, 2016 have origins in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Somalia.
  2. Human Rights Watch estimated that 250,000 Syrian refugees are residing in one of the 25 government administrated camps. The remaining estimated 2 million refugees in Turkey live outside the camps and often struggle to find housing while they live in abject poverty.
  3. According to Project Hope, an international health care organization, Turkey has created an ID card system to provide registered Syrian refugees with free health care and education.
  4. Former Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said that since 2011, Turkey has spent more on those living outside the camps (around $30 billion), compared with about $10 billion on those living in the camps. And according to Human Rights Watch, the government has been increasingly under pressure to generate sufficient resources for a growing refugee population.
  5. The World Food Programme joined the Turkish Red Crescent in 2012 to form the Electronic Food Card Programme for Syrian refugees residing in camps. Each card given to households has a monthly stipend which allows individuals to purchase food.
  6. The European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO) reported that it will fund the Faculty for Refugees in Turkey, providing €3 billion in humanitarian aid and development in 2016 and 2017.
  7. In the last year and a half according to the Washington Post, about 1 million refugees, mostly Syrian nationals have traveled illegally to Greece via Turkey. The journey by sea on small boats is costly and very dangerous — many have died.
  8. In January, Syrian refugees were permitted to work legally in Turkey after the government issued work permits, and in July, Al-Monitor reported that the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was planning to offer citizenship to 300,000 Syrian refugees living in Turkey.
  9. According to The Economist, the flow of refugees traveling to Europe has slowed in recent months because of a deal brokered between the EU and Turkey in March. The plan is controversial with human rights groups but allows migrants and refugees that came to Europe from Turkey to be sent back. In exchange, Turkey is to receive €6 billion in assistance for refugees, have renewed EU membership talks and visa-free travel in the Schengen area for Turkish citizens.
  10. In an August interview with Le Monde newspaper, President Erdoğan said that readmissions of migrants and refugees will stop if the EU does not implement the visa-free travel. The readmissions were to begin on June 1.

A thwarted coup attempt in Turkey on July 15 has generated concern as to the possible implications it could have on the March EU-Turkey deal to end erratic migration from Turkey to the EU. Prior to the coup attempt, there were EU concerns going forward with the deal, and this unease may now be heightened due to the internal disquiet occurring presently in the country.

Heidi Grossman

Photo: Flickr

refugee volunteers

Crossing by sea and land, over 1 million refugees sought asylum in Europe in 2015, according to the BBC. The source says that numbers continue to increase, reaching 135,711 refugees between January and early March of this year.

Those fleeing conflict in Syria, in addition to Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, Albania, Pakistan and other high-risk countries, are often left stranded and unable to return to their home country. Unfortunately, refugees typically have a difficult time assimilating into society when they are accepting into host countries.

In Across Borders, a month-long online conversation hosted by Devex and other partners, Richard Dictus, the executive coordinator of United Nations Volunteers (UNV), writes about the conditions of displaced individuals and asylum seekers.

In addition to the problem of refugee assistance, he notes that human migration brings to light issues surrounding discrimination as well as sexual and gender-based violence within these groups.

Larger international organizations such as the UNHCR Volunteers, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Exodus Refugee have been active members in assisting refugees during this crisis.

According to Amnesty International, 104,410 resettlement places have been offered globally since the start of the Syrian crisis. Close to half of these asylum applications were submitted to Germany and Sweden.

In addition to European intervention, United Nations Volunteers (UNVs) working on endeavors in Lebanon, Jordon Turkey, Iraq and Egypt—where more than 4 million refugees from Syria are located—have made a significant impact.

Of note, a collaborative project between the U.N. Relief and Works Agency and the European Union, where national UNV teachers are deployed to schools for Palestinian refugees located throughout Lebanon, promotes the integrity of refugees within the humanitarian crisis with refugee-to-refugee assistance.

The program mobilizes former Palestinian refugees, who have become integrated into Lebanon culture, as administrators to the new wave of refugees. The communication with these refugee volunteers can go along way in providing advice and guidance, since they share similar experiences.

Partnerships both in and outside of the European continue to make headway in terms of providing refugee volunteers and much-needd assistance. Refugee-to-refugee volunteerism serves as yet another way in which human integrity is upheld within a time of great need.

Nora Harless

Photo: Flickr

CNN reports that the U.S. only accepted 30,000 Syrian refugees this fiscal year. Over the past three years, civil war has claimed the lives of 50,000 Syrians and produced 2.3 million refugees, half of them children.  The United Nations High Commission for Refugees wants to settle 30,000 of these people this year.

Yet, in the past, the United States has led the world in resettlement and humanitarian efforts.

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin said that the United States’ overly broad immigration bars are preventing Syrian refugees from taking asylum here — approximately 135,000 refugees have applied for asylum in the U.S.

The small nations surrounding Syria have welcomed refugees. Lebanon and Jordan began accepting refugees early on with individual families taking friends, family members and even strangers into their homes. Refugee camps were later built to house Syrians.

Lebanon has taken in more than 860,000 asylum seekers, more than 20% of its entire population. The town of Arsal, with a population of only 35,000, had taken in 19,000 refugees when it received an additional 20,000 in November.

Some 700,000 Syrian refugees are residing in Turkey. While 200,000 of these are being housed in 21 refugee camps, the remainder have found shelter in towns and cities.

While these countries have been generous, they do not have the space or resources to house this number of refugees and are beginning to see a rise in social and economic tensions. Schools and hospitals are running out of space and incomes have been dropping as residents compete for work.

The U.S. Department of State and USAID have been major sources of funding for humanitarian programs, providing basic necessities such as food, water, tents and medical supplies.

The United States has provided $300 million to Jordan since 2012. It has helped the country to expand its social services to be able to house Syrian refugees, for example 5 schools were built and 62 others were expanded.

However the U.S. is still lagging behind other countries in resettlement. Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war only 90 Syrians have found asylum in the United States. In contrast, Sweden has accepted 14,700 refugees and Germany has accepted 18,000.

Both Senator Dick Durbin and Senator Lindsay Graham are pushing for immigration reform that will allow for the acceptance of more Syrian refugees into the U.S.

– Elizabeth Brown

Sources: CNN, U.S. Department of State, U.S. News, Think Progress
Photo: UN News Centre