Since the conflict in Syria began in March 2011 an estimated 5.6 million Syrians have fled the country, the majority of them to Turkey. According to Government statistics, around 3.7 million Syrian refugees had been registered in Turkey as of 10 October 2019, in addition to 170 000 Afghans, 142 000 Iraqis, 39 000 Iranians, 5 700 Somalis, and 11 700 from other countries, a total of well over 4 million registered refugees. This makes Turkey the biggest refugee-hosting country in the world.
In response to the massive population influx, the Government of Turkey has provided all Syrian refugees with temporary protection and other nationalities with international protection, which has involved adapting existing national systems, such as identity and address registration. The refugees under temporary and/or international protection have also been provided with access to the same basic services as any other Turkish citizen, including education and health. A range of national NGOs, INGOs, UN agencies and other international organizations are working to support both the refugees living in Turkey and the Government in providing any other assistance needed by the refugee population.
One such assistance programme is the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) programme, the biggest humanitarian project that the European Union has ever funded. It is designed to help cover the basic needs of the most vulnerable individuals living under temporary or international protection outside camps in Turkey. The ESSN provides beneficiary refugee households with a debit card giving them access to a fixed amount of money each month to spend on whatever they need to, whether it be food, fuel, rent, medicine or bills. Every month, it is topped up with 120 Turkish Lira (TRY) (20 USD) for each member of the family. Families also receive quarterly top-ups; households with 14 family members receive 600 TRY per person, those with 5-8 members 300 TRY and households with 9+ members 100 TRY. Refugees with severe disability receive an additional monthly top-up payment of 600 TRY.
The programme rolled out across Turkey in November 2016 and is implemented by the Turkish Red Crescent (TRC), the Turkish Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Services (MoFLSS) and the World Food Programme (WFP), with funding from the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO). By June 2019 the ESSN programme was supporting over 1.64 million people who met the eligibility criteria. Those with a work permit or who own registered assets in Turkey are not eligible to receive assistance.
Despite strong growth in the past 20 years, Turkey is facing an acute set of economic challenges that emerged in 2018. Triggered by a sharp depreciation of the Turkish Lira and a fall in investor confidence and domestic demand, by the end of 2018 Turkey had entered a recession, with inflation running at 20 percent. However, by August 2019 Turkey’s headline inflation rate had dropped to its lowest level since May 2018.
The Comprehensive Vulnerability Monitoring Exercise (CVME) has been crucial for the assessment and monitoring of the ESSN. While CVME1 and CVME2 were not representative of the refugee population living in Turkey, the CVME4 is the second vulnerability study representative of refugees across the country. Like the previous CVME3 released in May 2019, the main objective is to assess the socioeconomic vulnerability of the refugee population, estimate their needs and, where possible, compare the findings with those of the previous study. This report quantifies needs across many sectors. It also covers future beneficiaries who have successfully applied, but not yet received their cards for ESSN assistance.
Considering the scale of the refugee population in Turkey and the size of the ESSN, the CVME is a vital tool for programme accountability and performance, providing important evidence around refugee needs for use by ESSN stakeholders and many other humanitarian and development actors across Turkey.
Using data from previous CVME rounds in conjunction with other monitoring information, ESSN organizations have:
• Increased outreach to refugees aiming to benefit from the ESSN and assisted them to overcome the prerequisites to application (identity registration, address registration, etc.).
• Advocated for solutions enabling refugees living in informal housing and seasonal migrants to acquire formal address registration and consequently apply to the ESSN.
• Increased protection referrals, ensuring that households/ individuals in need of services outside the ESSN (such as education, healthcare or legal services) are referred to the appropriate service providers.
• Increased top-ups for families depending on the household size.
• Provided the Social Assistance and Solidarity Foundation (SASF), a discretionary allowance to allocate to families that do not meet the demographic criteria for the ESSN but are assessed as extremely poor. This recognizes that while the targeting approach has worked comparatively well, there is an exclusion error which means the ESSN has missed a share of the population in need.