Turkey is home to the largest refugee population in the world. During 2017, the number of Syrians under temporary protection reached just over 3.3 million, almost half of whom are children. Only around 7 per cent of Syrians under temporary protection live in the 21 official Temporary Accommodation Centres in provinces along the Syrian border,1 while the remaining 93 per cent reside among the host community in urban, peri-urban and rural areas. The majority of the Syrians under temporary protection live in the South East of Turkey. However, large numbers of Syrians under temporary protection have moved to other parts of Turkey.
It is estimated that over 500,000 refugees are living in Istanbul making it the largest refugee hosting city in Turkey. Substantial populations are also found in Izmir, Ankara and other large cities in Turkey.
Unless significant developments occur in Syria, it is assumed that the current number of Syrians under temporary protection will remain stable. The Government of Turkey maintains its open-door policy towards Syrians, while continuing to strictly manage the borders in response to security concerns. Self-organized, small scale, spontaneous returns are expected to continue. While it is a priority to monitor these movements, it is not expected that the numbers will increase to a level that will have an impact on the planning figures for 2018.
The Government of Turkey has shouldered the bulk of the significant financial burden of the refugee response – according to the latest Government estimates, more than US $30 billion has been spent on direct assistance to Syrians under temporary protection in Turkey to date. With the crisis in Syria continuing and the refugee situation remaining protracted, Turkey is calling for increased international burden and responsibility sharing to ensure that the needs of Syrians under temporary protection and the host communities are met.
Turkey’s 3RP has consistently stood out for its strong national ownership and leadership, with partners playing a support role to the Government of Turkey within the established national asylum framework. Turkey continues to demonstrate its capacity to receive and process admissions effectively and the temporary protection Regulation2 provides Syrians access to national systems such as health, education, employment and social services.
Syrians under temporary protection are increasingly accessing services that are provided through public systems. For example, Education sector data shows that at the start of the 2017/2018 school year more than 600,000 Syrian children of school-age are enrolled in primary and secondary education and just under 17,000 students are attending tertiary education. Progress within the health sector demonstrates how the Government of Turkey, with the support of 3RP partners, continues to support the resilience of the health system. Over one thousand Syrian doctors and nurses have been trained so far on the Turkish health system and more than 400 of them are now working in refugee clinics throughout the country.
In January 2016, the Regulation on Work Permits of Refugees under temporary protection (hereafter Work Permit Regulation) was adopted, granting all beneficiaries of temporary protection the right to apply for work permits and access formal employment. This is expected to enable the Syrians under temporary protection to become more selfreliant and resilient. Since its introduction, 26,000 work permits have been granted to Syrians under temporary protection. While work regulations are becoming less restrictive and jobs are more accessible challenges remain in terms of the implementation of the Work Permit Regulation. Job prospects among Syrians under temporary protection and host communities continue to be challenged by administrative and social barriers as well as increasing levels of unemployment. Across Turkey, the unemployment rate in the formal sector reached 10.2 per cent (3.25 million people without work) by June 2017. Therefore, income levels among refugees remain insufficient and social assistance programmes are still needed for those who barely make ends meet as well as those with specific needs.
The Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) was launched nationwide at the end of 2016 and is a multi-purpose cash assistance scheme for over one million of the most vulnerable refugees to cover essential needs like food, rent and utilities. In partnership with the Ministry of Family and Social Policy (MoFSP) and in coordination with the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD), the Directorate General of Migration Management (DGMM), the Directorate General of Citizenship and Population Affairs (DGCPA) and the Turkish Red Crescent (TRC), the ESSN works through, and builds upon, existing national social assistance programmes and is complemented by other cash schemes such as the Conditional Cash Transfer for Education (CCTE). These schemes are strongly aligned with the commitments set out in the Grand Bargain and illustrate the important advances that have been made to address socio-economic vulnerabilities. Nonetheless, there is still a need for the humanitarian community to continue complementing these support systems. An example of such complementarity is the investment made in winter assistance with cash as well as in-kind support being provided to people in need. Other multi-purpose cash schemes that address specific vulnerabilities of refugees not meeting the ESSN criteria are also being developed.
The generosity of the Turkish population continues. However, as the situation becomes more protracted the impact of the presence of large numbers of refugees become more visible, in particular in the South East where the concentration of Syrians under temporary protection is highest.
Municipal infrastructure and service delivery continues to be strained due to the significant increase in demand, including solid waste and waste water management as well as fire-fighting services. The increase in demand has led to challenges in terms of access to adequate services and increased competition between Syrians under temporary protection and host communities, risking a further increase in social tensions. Investments in municipal infrastructure and capacities therefore remain a high priority.