The civil war, which erupted in 2011 in Syria, caused one of the most atrocious humanitarian and refugee crises in world history. Today, there are over 5.5 million registered Syrian refugees in the world and more than six million internally displaced Syrians inside their country.
As the neighbouring country, Turkey plays a leading role to alleviate the effects of the Syrian crisis and shoulders especially its humanitarian burden. Maintaining an ‘open door’ policy for Syrians without any form of discrimination since 2011, Turkey has been hosting more than 3.5 million Syrians. As of November 2018, there are 14 temporary protection centres equipped with schools, hospitals and other facilities in 10 cities in Turkey for refugees and approximately 155,000 Syrians are living in those protection centres.
Every single Syrian who sought protection in our country is granted temporary protection status. The Temporary Protection Regulation introduced by the Turkish Government in 2014, provides a rights-based framework, enabling Syrians to access extensive rights and entitlements, including health care services, education, employment and social security etc. The aim of Turkey is not only to save the lives and provide a safe harbor for the Syrians, but also to improve their living conditions. Therefore, language courses, education and vocational training, access to labor market, as well as social and health services are major components of Turkey’s social cohesion policy towards Syrians.
Today there are around 641,000 school-age Syrian children who can attend school in Turkey and more than 150,000 Syrian women attended to vocational and formal education programs. Moreover, while the schooling ratio in 2016 was 30%, it has reached to 65% for the period 2017 to 2018, owing to the efforts of Turkish Government.
Additionally, around 20,000 Syrians attend universities in our country. More than 400 Syrian academicians have been working at Turkish universities.
Our healthcare facilities are also operating meticulously for assisting the Syrian families. In the past seven years, 1.5 million surgeries have been conducted on Syrians and more than 300 thousand babies were born in our hospitals.
Over 90% of Syrians live in urban areas across the country. This ratio demonstrates solidarity and empathy of Turkish society towards Syrians. This approach is quite important for maintaining social cohesion and peaceful co-existence.
For the well-being of Syrians under temporary protection, Turkey has spent almost US$33 billion, including the contributions of municipalities and Turkish NGOs. According to the Global Humanitarian Assistance Report 2018, prepared by Global Humanitarian Assistance Programme of Development Initiatives institution in the UK, Turkey ranks the largest donor country world-wide with its more than US$8 billion humanitarian assistance in 2017.
Turkey also ranks first when the ratio of official humanitarian assistance to national income (0.85%) is taken into consideration. Thus, according to the Report, Turkey holds the title as ‘the most generous country’ in the world, as well as the largest refugee hosting country with more than four million asylum-seekers.
Considering that the number of Syrians, which Turkey has been hosting, amounts to the population of some European countries, it can be easily acknowledged that responding to every need of Syrian refugees is not an easy task, especially in terms of capacity planning, achieving efficient coordination among various institutions, as well as material and financial allocation of non-limitless resources. While it is quite a heavy burden for a single country to carry, it is essential that we have the support of the international donor community for delivering sufficient assistance to Syrians in the most efficient way. In this context, we appreciate the efforts of UN agencies and their civil society partners in providing support to refugees in the fields of protection, food security, education, basic needs, health and livelihoods and expect their kind support in improving strategies for developing long-term solutions for refugee crisis.
Besides UN, European Union (EU) is one of the main burden-sharing partners of Turkey, which is already a candidate country for the EU. On the basis of the Turkey-EU Agreement of March 18, 2016, the number of Syrians who were transferred to the EU countries reached to 1.754 as of October 2018. Turkey continues its cooperation and coordination with the EU for the safe settlement of Syrians in third countries.
The past seven years of the Syrian civil war clearly demonstrated that the Syrian humanitarian crisis is a global phenomenon and concerns all humanity. Therefore, what we need is a genuine burden and responsibility sharing together with sincere cooperation, beyond self-sacrificing efforts of limited number of countries.