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Turkey: International Appeal n° MDRTR003 Operations Update n° 15

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Situation Report
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Highlights of this operation update

This operation update reports on the implementation of programmes and activities for January to June 2020 against the seventh revised plan of action of the International Appeal. The TRCS community centres continued to be the mainstay for both refugee and host communities, especially since the announcement of the COVID-19 global pandemic. While government restrictions on movement due to the pandemic were firmly observed, TRCS continued to provide services, share information and raise awareness using telephone, social media and other online conferencing tools.

In a bid to curb spread of the disease, the Turkish government introduced a series of containment measures including closing schools and places of worship; cancelling all social activities; applying flexible working modalities such as working from home; closing shopping malls, restaurants and community spaces; and banning all public gatherings. In March, Turkey also cancelled all international flights and deemed inter-province travel subject to local authority permission. A 14-day quarantine was mandatory for all people arriving from abroad. A curfew on weekends and public holidays was also implemented.

In June, the country began easing movement restrictions in-country, lifting bans on intercity travel and allowing restaurants, parks, sports and childcare facilities to operate. Come July, Turkey opened its borders to overseas visitors, with health checks, protection and distancing measures in place. Temperature scans and testing are in place at airports and other tourist facilities.

Overall, however, activities under this International Appeal in the first half of 2020 were severely curbed due to COVID-19 pandemic constraints. Participants in the final mentoring phase of the Livelihoods entrepreneurship programme experienced difficulties in moving forward with their individual plans as well as disruptions to their existing businesses. Some significant needs of the entrepreneurs which emerged due to the pandemic situation included paying rent, procurement of materials and services, and social security. Skills training normally held at the community centres was cancelled with some of these being held online where possible. While some agricultural courses resumed in the field with limited participation, following the lockdown ease in June, these were also considered risky, despite the observation of physical distancing and the use of personal protection equipment (PPE). For Health, most activities addressed COVID-19 concerns, including information sharing, symptom screening and psychosocial support (PSS) counselling – Operation Update Turkey: Population Movement much of which was conducted by telephone or online. Distribution of hygiene packages was made among vulnerable groups as well. Awareness-raising seminars were conducted online on various health concerns, the foremost of which were related to COVID-19. TRCS continued to provide referrals for service users to relevant health institutions as needed.

Also during this period, the ‘Responding to Protection Needs of Refugees in Turkey’ project funded by DG-ECHO closed at the end of March 2020. During its lifetime, this project served over 782,600 refugees through multi-disciplinary approaches customized for individual needs. While pandemic constraints severely limited protection activities from mid-March, CC staff continued to work from home and support ongoing cases via phone/online means where possible.

Some Turkish language classes were also held online for which lesson modules were subsequently tailored for several vocational sectors.

The Community Engagement and Accountability (CEA) team was highly active during this reporting period, especially in relation to the pandemic. Of particular interest were the ‘false facts’ seminars which addressed rumours circulating among the communities and provided factual information to support community members in taking correct precautionary and protective measures as well as allaying fears regarding community concerns. All activities were conducted through online platforms.

For more on the National Society’s activities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the IFRC global appeal, click here.

A. SITUATION ANALYSIS

Description of the situation

As of 28 August 2020, Turkey continued to host more than 3.6 million refugees, of whom Syrians registered under Temporary Protection comprise some 99 per cent, with the rest including nationals from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and other countries registered under International Protection. Some 62,000 Syrian refugees currently live in government-run temporary accommodation centres (camps) with access to shelter, food, education, health and social services, though this continues to reduce as camps throughout the country are gradually being closed. The remaining 3.54 million or so reside in congested urban areas, often under challenging circumstances and with scarce resources, despite commendable humanitarian assistance efforts by the Turkish government authorities.

Turkey’s Directorate General of Migration Management (DGMM) reports some 94 per cent of the Syrian refugee population continues to live in urban areas throughout the country, with the majority in Istanbul (some 506,000 individuals or 14 per cent), followed by Gaziantep (12.5%), Hatay (12.1%) and Şanlıurfa (11.6%), comprising some 50 per cent of all Syrian refugees registered in Turkey in these four cities alone.

10 cities alone host over 78 per cent of all Syrian refugees in Turkey. Other cities which house high numbers of the refugee population include Ankara, Kahramanmaraş, Mardin, Kayseri, Kocaeli, Osmaniye, Diyarbakır, Malatya, Adıyaman, and Batman. Cumulatively, all these 20 cities are currently home to some 94 per cent of 3.6 million refugees under Temporary Protection in Turkey.