• By the end of 2018, more than 645,000 Syrian and other refugee children were enrolled in Turkish public schools and temporary education centres across the country – a five per cent increase over the previous school year. Over 47,000 young Syrian and Turkish children were enrolled in early childhood education.
• The Conditional Cash Transfer for Education for refugee children expanded significantly in 2018, from 188,500 children enrolled in January to nearly 411,000 in December.
• More than 280,000 vulnerable refugees, migrants, asylum-seekers accessed community-based protection services via a network of 74 UNICEF-supported child and adolescent friendly spaces and centres across the country. Of these, nearly 200,000 were children, and more than 90,000 participated in structured child protection or psychosocial support programmes.
• UNICEF provided non-food items and basic needs support to vulnerable refugee, migrant and Turkish families, reaching more than 10,400 households with cash-based winter assistance in 2018 and distributing hygiene kits to over 57,000 children on the move
SITUATION IN NUMBERS
1,746,108 children affected out of
3,990,595 people affected
UNICEF 2018 Appeal US $229.2 million
Situation Overview & Humanitarian Needs
In 2018, Turkey continued to host the largest registered refugee population in the world. By year-end, almost 4 million refugees and asylum-seekers were registered in Turkey, of whom over 1.7 million were children.
The Syria refugee crisis remained the largest humanitarian situation in Turkey, though it remained relatively stable over the last year, with the demographic increase largely due to natural population growth. Over 3.6 million Syrians – including 1.6 million children – were under temporary protection, 96 per cent of whom lived in host communities across the country.
Turkey also continued to host a sizable non-Syrian refugee community. Almost 370,000 non-Syrians (primarily from Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran) have sought asylum and international protection in Turkey, including some 120,000 children.
In addition, Turkey continues to serve as a transit country for unregistered refugees and migrants on the move, many of them risking their lives – as well as the lives of their children – to seek protection or greater opportunities in Europe. While the EU-Turkey Statement, signed in 2016, has significantly reduced the flow of people into the EU, in 2018 nearly 32,500 refugees and migrants made the perilous journey by sea from Turkey to Greece and over 18,000 crossed by land – an average of 4,200 people per month. An estimated one third of those who crossed are believed to be children. Meanwhile, 336 men, women and children were returned to Turkey in 2018 under the framework of the Statement, bringing the total number of re-admissions to 1,821 since the Statement came into effect. Nearly 40 per cent of those returned were men from Syria, with the remaining coming from South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, and West Africa.
After years of displacement, refugee families in Turkey remain highly vulnerable, particularly in the areas of education and child protection. Although two major Turkish social welfare programmes – the Emergency Social Safety Net and the Conditional Cash Transfer for Education – were extended to refugee families and have helped alleviate the situation, recent assessments found that nearly 12 per cent of Syrian refugees continue to live in extreme poverty, and 59 per cent in moderate poverty.3 The contraction in the Turkish economy in 2018 and associated inflation placed additional burdens in the struggle to provide for their families.
The situation for refugee children in Turkey remains challenging. It is estimated that some 400,000 Syrian children remain out of school and face difficulties such as a lack of awareness of available services, language barriers, socio-economic obstacles, and dropout at the secondary school level. Refugee and migrant children – particularly those out of school – are also acutely susceptible to numerous protection risks, including isolation, discrimination, and various forms of exploitation. Moreover, years of conflict and displacement continue to have a significant impact on their psycho-social well-being which, if not addressed, can have a lasting negative impact on their development. And as many vulnerable families struggle to meet their basic needs, they are increasingly resorting to negative coping mechanisms – such as engaging in child labour and child marriage – instead of sending their children to school.
The Government of Turkey continues to lead the overall refugee response and shoulders most of the financial burden –more than US $30 billion to date – generously providing support to refugees via public services. Nevertheless, despite the progress achieved to date, the immense scale of the refugee crisis continues to place enormous strain on the country’s basic services and infrastructure. In 2019, the humanitarian situation in Turkey is expected to remain relatively stable, though the UN continues to maintain contingency plans for large-scale returns or influxes should the security condition inside northern Syria (particularly Idlib and Aleppo) deteriorate markedly. UNICEF, together with the Government of Turkey and other partners, remains focused on improving the lives of these children, and helping to prevent a lost generation of Syrians.