ISTANBUL – Zeynep Bilgehan
A total of 55 projects worth 1.78 billion euros have been contracted as a result of the 2016 EU-Turkey migrant deal, in which Brussels promised to speed up the allocation of three billion euros of migrant aid to the country. With 908 million euros transferred so far, most of the projects are related to education and health care.
The EU has provided financial aid not only to the Turkish government but also to various U.N. institutions and NGOs dealing with the refugee crisis in the country. Coordination between institutions is established through the EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey (FRIT), which became operational in February 2016.
Representatives from the EU member countries and Turkey meet once every three months to evaluate the developments.
Some 1.6 million euros has been allocated to education and healthcare services, municipality infrastructures, socioeconomic programs and migration management. Education and health services top the list, receiving 300 million euros each so far.
The Health Ministry is spending the 300 million euros it has received on “Sıhhat,” the organization responsible for the Syrians’ healthcare in Turkey. Three refugee health centers are currently operational, but the aim is to increase this number to 178.
One such health center is Bab-ı Şifa, located in the southeastern province of Kilis, near the Syrian border. The center, which offers services exclusively to Syrians, employs nearly 50 Syrian personnel and conducts 480 health examinations every day.
Turkish doctors provided initial training to the Syrian doctors who work at the center. Kilis provincial health director Dr. Turgay Happani says a total of 34,155 medical examinations have taken place since the center opened its doors.
The Turkish government also provides community centers to help Syrian refugees integrate.
The Turkish Red Crescent in Kilis established such a center a year and a half ago with the support of EU funds. Educational programs, such as Turkish language and computer classes, cater mainly for Syrian women and children. At the time of writing, a total of 10,000 refugees had passed through the center, which is able to accommodate 100 students at any one time.
Turkey has also worked on the education of Syrian children. Although initially referred to temporary education centers, the Education Ministry’s current policy is to gradually integrate Syrian children into the country’s mainstream education system. This project, also funded by the EU, has a budget of 300 million euros, and employs around 7,500 personnel across 23 provinces in Turkey.
In addition, the EU has signed an agreement worth 60 million euros with the Directorate General of Migration Management to finance the return of refugees from Greece to Turkey.
EU Ambassador to Turkey Christian Berger has commended Turkish efforts to curb the Turkey-Europe migration flow, which has slowed from 100 to 70 a day.
Berger said “approximately 2,000 irregular migrants, including 200 Syrians, have been sent back to Turkey from Greece.”
“Now that Greece has determined Turkey a ‘safe’ country, this number will increase. The number of migrants who have come to the EU from Turkey currently stands at 11,000,” he added.
The remaining 1.4 billion euros of the EU aid package will go to the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) to cover the basic daily needs of the refugees in Turkey. The initial budget of the Turkish Red Crescent e-food card program is 348 million euros. This allows some of the poorest Syrians in Turkey to buy a sufficient amount of nutritious foods.
The e-food card program identifies the most vulnerable Syrian families – often those unable to work or headed by women – and provides them with a debit card, loaded with 133 Turkish liras credit per refugee.
The card works at contracted Turkish supermarkets and can be used to purchase anything from fresh meat and vegetables to bread, milk and sugar. Some one million refugees living in Turkey avail of this card, spending up to 120 million euros per month.
To tackle the flow of Syrian refugees from Turkey to Europe, the EU and Turkey agreed on a joint action plan in late 2015.
Turkey promised to provide safe havens and re-settle refugees sent back from Greece while the EU committed to financial support to help the country absorb and integrate displaced Syrians into their new communities. The financial support is provided by the European Commission through the Facility for Refugees in Turkey (FRIT).