The Danish Refugee Council has been operating in the border areas of southeastern Turkey (Kilis, Hatay and Urfa) since 2013. With the protracted nature of the Syrian crisis and 1.7 million Syrian refugees already registered as of June 2015 (unofficially those figures are closer to 2.5 million), Turkey is currently hosting the largest number of refugees worldwide since 2014, as a result of the open border policy of the Turkish government . The vast majority of the refugees are Syrian. While the Turkish authorities have responded remarkably to the Syrian humanitarian crisis hosting 269,000 individuals in 25 refugee camps, further assistance and support is needed. The vast majority of refugees live outside the camps in urban and rural areas in southern Turkey in provinces along the border, with the largest concentrations in Gaziantep, Sanliurfa, Hatay and Kilis. DRC’s support to refugees in Turkey focuses on the needs of this highly vulnerable non-camp population.
Emergency response to the Syrian conflict-affected population
Non-camp refugees live in more precarious conditions, as they do not have access to sufficient information and services, by comparison to the camp population. Many families report difficulties making ends meet as their savings quickly diminish. The needs of those families range from direct assistance through Non Food Items (NFI), food and housing rent to education, protection and an inability to become self-reliant through employment. Host communities are generously sharing resources with the refugees but their resources are overstretched, with increased tensions reported between the two populations.
It is expected that the conflict-affected people’s tangible and intangible needs will grow, as the crisis in Syria continues and becomes ever more protracted, prompting refugees to displace multiple times in search of safer or better serviced areas.
Through local partnerships, in 2015 DRC Turkey program will address the continuing needs of the Syrian Refugees through the following areas:
Direct Assistance: DRC Turkey provides cash and in-kind assistance to the Syrian refugees in Turkey, including distribution of in-kind NFIs including hygiene items, kitchen kits and baby kits when appropriate during the onset of a sudden influx of refugees. Since 2015 DRC Turkey has moved away from traditional NFI assistance to more condition-based cash assistance in the form of e-vouchers for the most vulnerable families to better respond to urgent needs.
Livelihoods: DRC’s livelihood programme focuses on capacity building and facilitating linkages between unemployed Syrian refugees and potential employees. DRC expects that at least a considerable part of the Syrian families will stay in Turkey for a significant period of time, which makes economic integration particularly important despite uphill battle of language differences that bars Syrians from more skilled professions. The focus on livelihoods is also intended to improve beneficiaries’ resilience and therefore reduce the risk of falling into extreme poverty, and resorting to negative coping mechanisms. DRC aims to base its activities on a thorough understanding of the labour market to ensure that activities are led by existing demand in Turkey, and in line with the parameters established by the Turkish authorities.
Protection: The needs of refugees in urban settings are increasing as the crisis becomes more protracted and many Syrians are forced to stay longer than expected in Turkey. In this context, it becomes increasingly critical to ensure awareness of, access to, and availability of basic protection services. In addition to ensuring access to information on services, referrals, and individualized assistance with a focus on vulnerabilities, DRC aims to increase awareness on protection topics (child labour, child marriage, gender based violence, etc) among refugees, host communities as well as other stakeholders including local authorities. In addition DRC Turkey also provides emergency assistance catered to the specific needs of the very vulnerable through a Special Needs Fund coupled with close case management follow up.
Another key area of DRC Turkey’s work is risk education aimed at preventing harm and minimizing casualties caused by explosive remnants of war to the civilian population through awareness raising and promotion of safe behaviour. In coordination with DRC’s humanitarian mine action unit, the Danish Demining Group (DDG), risk education plays an important role in DRC’s programming in Turkey due to the large cross border movements between Turkey and Syria of the Syrian refugee population.
Community Services: DRC has established four Community Centres in South/South-east Turkey in the last two years and is considered a significant actor in the country delivering community services. DRC sees the Community Centres as a significant hub for both Syrian refugee and Turkish communities, as well as a base for the delivery of its activities in Turkey. These include psychosocial activities, non-formal education, legal and information counseling, protection awareness, livelihood counselling as well as provide a safe space for Syrian refugees to de-stress, interact and re-engage. The Centres welcome members of the host communities to encourage intercommunal dialogue and understanding.
Capacity building: DRC works in close collaboration with one main national implementing partner, ensuring capacity building is a core component of our work to ensure transfer of knowledge and skills in DRC’s areas of expertise.
Partners and donors
International Middle East Peace Research Center (partner)