European Commission - SPaN (2019) Case Study: Turkey

The Turkey case study was produced as part of the “Guidance Package on Social Protection across the Humanitarian-Development Nexus” (SPaN). It is the outcome of an initiative jointly led by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO), Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) and Directorate- General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (NEAR) with the support of DEVCO Unit 04 and the MKS programme. 

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About the Case Study

In 2017 there were 3.3 million registered refugees in Turkey, of which approximately 3.1 million were Syrians. Over 90% of the refugees were residing outside of camps, with 81% concentrated in three provinces in the South East, and Istanbul. In May 2017, 64.2% of refugees were estimated to be living below the Turkish poverty line. From January 2016, formally registered Syrian refugees could apply for work permits. However as of September 2017 only approximately 26 000 had been issued - less than 4% of the refugee population. The Turkish Government has played a central role in supporting the refugee crisis, contributing over USD 25 billion since 20111. International funding for the response has increased year on year from USD $80 million in 2012 to USD 795 million in 2017. Funding has come from a range of bilateral and multilateral sources, with the EU and US consistently the major donors. Cash transfer programmes (CTP) have been part of the response since 2012. As the refugee situation became protracted, response plans transitioned to provide increased support to national systems. A crucial aspect of the Government’s involvement in the evolution of this response was reform of the regulatory environment to increase refugees’ access to services and open opportunities for more durable solutions. In 2013, Turkey’s first asylum law, the Law on Foreigners and International Protection, established a new agency, the Directorate General of Migration Management (DGMM) under the Ministry of Interior, responsible for registration of refugees. A regulation on Temporary Protection for Syrian nationals provides registered refugees with a temporary identification document granting the right to stay in Turkey and to access public services including health, education and social assistance.

Supporting a sustainable solution in Turkey was in the interests of political leaders in Western Europe given increasing popular concern about migration into Europe. Negotiations led to adoption of the EU-Turkish Joint Action Plan at the European Council in November 2015 to increase support for Syrian refugees under Temporary Protection and their host communities in Turkey and prevent irregular migration flows to the EU. It also opened the possibility of a source of more long-term, predictable financing for the crisis. Under this, the Facility for the Refugees in Turkey (FRiT) was established to address both humanitarian and longer-term development needs of refugees and host communities. The EC and Member States committed EUR 3 billion in 2016 and 2017 including EUR 1.4 billion for humanitarian needs. Under the FRiT, the overall objective of the European Commission Directorate General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations’ (ECHO) strategy for Turkey is to improve the living conditions of the most vulnerable refugees (and other persons of concern) through predictable and dignified support addressing basic needs and protection. ECHO’s Humanitarian Implementation Plan (HIP) 2016 committed EUR 348 million to establishing an Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN), to provide longer term cash transfers to refugees and increase their selfreliance. Another priority was improving access to quality education through increasing enrolment and attendance. The Turkish Government was interested in expanding cash assistance to Syrians by using the Turkish social protection system. This is well established, with a range of cash based social transfers managed by the Ministry of Family and Social Policies (MoFSP) and administered through 1001 Social Assistance and Solidarity Foundations (SASF) in each province and district centre. These include ad hoc cash (and in-kind) transfers to the poor, at the discretion of the board of trustees, and regular national schemes where Foundations are responsible for overseeing applications, verification and enrolment according to nationally-defined regulations. The flagship programme is the Conditional Cash Transfer for Education (CCTE) which reached almost 2.35 million children in 2014. 

The ESSN supports registered Syrian and non-Syrian refugees living outside camps in Turkey, with the objective of stabilising or improving living standards of the most vulnerable refugee households. The ESSN was designed in conjunction with the Turkish Government and implemented through a partnership of the World Food Programme (WFP), the Turkish Red Crescent (TRC), the Ministry of Family and Social Policies (MoFSP), the Directorate General for Migration Management (DGMM), the Directorate General of Citizenship and Population Affairs (DGCPA), and the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD). Nationwide implementation began on 28th November 2016. Alongside this, ECHO co-funds a Conditional Cash Transfer for Education (CCTE) for Refugees through UNICEF. In its first year (2017-18) this aimed to provide cash assistance to 230 000 vulnerable refugee children attending Turkish public schools or Temporary Education Centres (TEC). The objective is to maintain school attendance and prevent drop out of vulnerable refugee children and (to a lesser extent) improve school enrolment for out-of-school children. The programme started being implemented in the second quarter of 2017 and is likely to run until mid2019. This is a partnership with MoFSP, the Ministry of National Education (MoNE) and TRC and also makes use of the national social protection system. The ESSN and CCTE for Refugees are designed to achieve different objectives and as a result they link with the national social protection system in different ways. They build on the existing administrative processes, systems and institutions used to provide social transfers to Turkish citizens. Processes have been adapted, where necessary, for the requirements of delivering humanitarian cash assistance at scale. They have been designed in close coordination and take advantage of common administrative processes where appropriate, in an effort to harmonise assistance and realise economies of scale. Funds are not transferred to government, but rather are channelled directly from WFP or UNICEF to TRC. 

Technical reports
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