Turkey is home to the largest refugee population in the world, hosting over 3.4 million. Most of them are Syrian – by September 2017 the number of Syrians had reached 3,181,537 – while the remaining 330,000 are from Afghanistan and Iraq and a smaller proportion from Iran and Somalia .
Just 231,252 are based in the 26 Government of Turkey camps. The remainder – about 90% of the refugee population – live in urban and peri-urban areas with limited access to basic services. The majority of them (70%) are women and children. Struggling to make ends meet, many are forced to go into debt, reduce the number of meals they take or withdraw their children from school.
All asylum seekers in Turkey are under International Protection, including Syrians who are under Temporary Protection (a subset of International Protection). No one is granted official refugee status. However, for clarity in the report, the term refugee covers all asylum seekers under any form of International Protection.
Cash for the most vulnerable
The European Commission is providing assistance to refugees via its largest humanitarian programme ever, the “EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey.” This allocates €3 billion to address the needs of refugees and host communities in 2016 and 2017.
One aspect of this is the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN), a debit card based multipurpose cash transfer scheme that launched in December 2016. The scheme aims to support 1.3 million of the most vulnerable refugees to meet their basic needs.
Each eligible household receives a debit card to use in shops or ATMs. It is topped up monthly with 120 Turkish Liras (USD 44) for each household member. They also receive quarterly top-ups.
The recipients decide for themselves how to spend the money according to their specific needs and priorities. Cash also supports the local economies where it is spent. Beneficiaries should be able to reduce their use of negative coping strategies such as sending children to work instead of school; reduce household debt and regain financial control and independence. By September 2017 the ESSN had reached over one million beneficiaries.
Any registered family living in Turkey under international protection can apply. The ESSN relies on demographic criteria as proxy measures of household welfare, aiming to select the poorest households.