Refugees in turkey

Increasing challenges for the largest refugee-receiving country in the world

For several years, Turkey has remained one of the world’s largest refugee-receiving countries.

As of early December 2020, there were 3.7 million refugees and asylum seekers living in Turkey, including over 3.6 million Syrian refugees and 330.000 refugees and asylum seekers of other nationalities, mainly from Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran. The high number of refugees is increasingly putting a strain on resources and infrastructure in Turkey.

live in cities and rural areas

Refugees live in Turkey

can attend school in Turkey

What are the conditions for refugees in Turkey??

In Turkey, over 98 percent of refugees live in urban or rural areas with the local population. Only 1.7% of refugees live in refugee camps. For this reason, UNHCR would particularly like to support civil society with regard to the reception of those seeking protection.

The main challenge remains the availability of resources and services for refugees and host communities. Refugees and asylum seekers have the right to education, health care and access to other social services according to Turkish law. Since 2016, refugees in Turkey have been allowed to pursue legal employment if they apply for a work permit. Refugees face high rents and limited access to education, jobs and health facilities. At the same time, tensions with the local population are increasing.

The worst thing about war is that it destroys children’s future. If children don’t have educational opportunities, they can’t give anything back to society.

Sidra, 21, fled violence in Syria to Turkey in 2014. Now she has received a scholarship and is studying dentistry.

What was agreed in the EU-Turkey agreement and what consequences it had?

In 2016, EU countries reached a refugee agreement with Turkey. This is to prevent refugees from coming to Europe. In this way, the overcrowded refugee camps on the Greek Aegean islands should be relieved in particular.

The agreement stipulates that Turkey will monitor its borders more closely and take back those seeking protection who are not granted asylum in Greece. In return, for every refugee sent back, the EU takes in another Syrian refugee from Turkey. In addition, the EU states support Turkey with six billion euros.

After the agreement came into force, the number of refugees arriving on the Greek islands dropped from over one million in the previous year to around 30 million each year.000 dropped in the following years.

In late February/early March 2020, the Turkish government reopened its border to refugees and migrants to Bulgaria and Greece. Preceded by an escalation of the Syrian civil war in the spring of 2020.

What is UNHCR doing on the ground?

UNHCR provides technical and operational assistance to the Turkish government. UNHCR country office sits in Ankara. There are also other field offices, including in Istanbul and Izmir. The reception, integration and inclusion of refugees in national systems is promoted by strengthening cooperation with the relevant ministries and institutions at national, regional and local levels.

UNHCR does not participate in repatriations, but supports adequate housing for people and fast processing of asylum applications.

The special focus in the work with refugees is on the protection of children, the prevention of sexual and gender-based violence and the support of refugees with special needs.

UNHCR supports and promotes education for refugees by awarding scholarships and offering language courses and workshops. Among other things, workshops have been held to support communication between refugees and host communities. In addition, people who provide legal support to refugees have received further training.

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