Turkey has been hosting the largest population of persons under temporary and international protection in the world for six years. In 2020, the number of Syrians under temporary protection have passed 3.6 million, almost half of whom are children 1 and 46 percent of whom are women and girls. In addition, Turkey hosts approximately 320,000 international protection applicants and status holders from other countries. The Law on Foreigners and International Protection, and the Temporary Protection Regulation, continue to provide a strong legal framework for the legal stay, registration, documentation and access to rights and services for foreigners in Turkey.
Currently, over 98 percent of Syrians under temporary protection live in urban and rural areas across Turkey’s 81 provinces, with less than two percent residing in the seven remaining Temporary Accommodation Centres (TACs). The majority live in the southeast of Turkey, as well as metropolitan cities such as Istanbul, Bursa, Izmir and Konya, mostly among members of the host community that often face similar needs and challenges.
International protection applicants and status holders in Turkey include various nationalities, with the largest populations coming from Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran.
The Government of Turkey has shouldered the bulk of the financial costs related to the refugee 2 response in Turkey.
As the displacement situation remains protracted, Turkey is calling for increased and sustained international responsibility sharing, in line with the objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees and the principle of ‘Leaving No One Behind’ under the Sustainable Development Goals, to address the continued needs of Syrians under temporary protection, international protection applicants and status holders, as well as the needs of host communities. However, while many 3RP efforts have focused on strengthening and enhancing the capacities of host communities and relevant institutions, resilience related needs have increased and remain largely underfunded.
In 2020 the Government of Turkey had to rapidly mobilize a national health response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which also had profound and far-reaching socioeconomic consequences on already vulnerable groups including Syrians under temporary protection, international protection applicants and status holders.
Turkey reported its first positive case of COVID-19 on 11 March 2020 and the first loss of life on 17 March 2020. Like other countries responding to the pandemic, the number of positive cases in Turkey has continued to increase during 2020.
The economic and social impacts of COVID-19 in Turkey are less easy to quantify and the consequences of the pandemic are being felt across communities and sectors.
Syrians under temporary protection, international protection applicants and status holders have been affected by a dramatic loss of livelihoods and income due to the pandemic which was compounded by a lack of savings, causing households to struggle to meet the costs of basic needs such as food, rent, hygiene and other daily expenses. While ongoing 3RP activities were adapted to respond to new and emerging needs, 3RP partners issued a supplementary appeal on 7 May 2020 to support Turkey’s response to the pandemic, drawing on rapid assessments including the April 2020 COVID-19 Needs Assessment for Refugees in Turkey coordinated by the Vice-Presidency of the Republic of Turkey, which contributed to the UN’s COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan 3. For 2021/22, 3RP sector responses take into account the impact of the pandemic, which has – to the extent known - been reflected across the 3RP plan.
Despite the increased burden of responding to COVID-19,
Turkey has continued to provide Syrians under temporary protection, international protection applicants and status holders with access to services in national systems, such as health, education and social services, as stipulated in the 2013 Law on Foreigners and International Protection, and the Temporary Protection Regulation. Turkey’s strong legal and policy framework for temporary and international protection forms the basis of the inclusive approach pursued through the response, including 3RP supported activities. The framework also provides for protection procedures such as registration and, with it, access to rights and services at national, provincial and local levels in health, education and social services. In addition, on the basis of the Regulation on Work Permits of Refugees under Temporary Protection, and the Regulation on the Work of International Protection Applicants and International Protection Status Holders, the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Services (MoFLSS) provides foreigners seeking asylum in Turkey with access to formal employment opportunities through work permits.
The Law on Foreigners and International Protection also introduced the concept of harmonization to the legal framework in Turkey, in an effort to strengthen social inclusion, promote self-reliance and allow for host community members and foreigners including persons under temporary and international protection to live in harmony. In 2018, Turkey adopted a National Harmonisation Strategy and Action Plan to implement the concept of harmonization with the aim of facilitating mutual harmonization between foreigners, persons under temporary and international protection and the society, as well as equipping foreigners with the knowledge and skills to be independently active in all areas of social life without the assistance of others. While there were signs before COVID-19 that the social distance between persons under temporary and international protection and host communities was increasing in Turkey due to the pressure placed on resources by the increased population, the added stress placed on individuals, families and communities by the pandemic risks undoing the progress achieved so far to promote social cohesion, and increasing competition for jobs and access to assistance and services may further strain community relations. 3RP partners work in support of the Government of Turkey’s refugee response, and complement support provided by development partners such as international financial institutions and other development partners.
Since its introduction in Turkey in 2015, the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP) has contributed to the mobilization of approximately USD 4.5 billion to date. 4 This support has been directed largely towards public systems and services that have been stretched as a result of the increase in demand in areas with high concentrations of Syrians under temporary protection.
The inclusion of Syrians under temporary protection, international protection applicants and status holders in relevant national systems is also outlined in Turkey’s 11th Development Plan (2019-23), which refers to harmonization for youth and children, awareness raising campaigns and support with adapting to social life in Turkey. The 3RP continues its alignment efforts with national development processes, as well as with the United Nations Strategic Development Cooperation Framework (UNSDCF, 2021-25) to support the Government of Turkey in progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and “leaving no one behind.” As first responders to the impact of population increase on services, local authorities including municipalities and Provincial Administrations play a vital role in hosting Syrians under temporary protection, international protection applicants and status holders, complementing the important services provided by line ministries and provincial directorates. Local actors also help identify and tackle social barriers through inclusive policies and service provision, even though Syrians under temporary protection, international protection applicants and status holders are not budgeted for in local development initiatives like the municipal 5-year strategic plan. Since 2014, USD 67 million has been mobilized by 3RP partners to support 60 municipalities, hosting 90 percent of Syrians under temporary protection in Turkey.