Turkey’s Response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis

Turkey’s Response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis

Sigcine Manyathi
Refugees queuing for a better life in Turkey. Source: Brookings

The start of the Syrian Civil war on March 15, 2011, marked the start of the suffering for many families. These fights have recorded thousands of casualties. They have torn the nation and have also taken the nation back in its standards of living. It has also resulted in the mass movement of the Syrians to neighboring countries and regions within Syria itself.

“As to date, the Syrian refugee crisis remains the largest displacement crisis that has come about in our lifetime.”


World Bank in “Turkey’s Response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis and the Road Ahead”.

Turkey is a party to the Refugee Convention of 1951. However, it had geographical limitations that were prominent to people who became refugees because of events that had happened before January 1, 1951. This still did not limit Syrians from being able to seek refuge in Turkey.

Turkey’s role in the refugee crisis is crucial. Source: EESC

The response by the Government of Turkey to the Syrian refugees was through the 2013 Law on Foreigners and International Protection. This law was the Temporary Protection (TP) regime for Syrian Refugees. The TP highlighted the rights and the responsibilities refugees had under their temporary protection; it also outlined the services that would be offered to those under protection. The organizations at the national, local, and international levels that were involved in the responses were also outlined. The TP did not have any limitations but rather included all Syrian refugees that were registered, as well as those who were not registered.

What started out as a small, is now a 10-year-long stretch since the first Syrians fled to Turkey to seek refuge. Turkey now hosts the largest refugee population in the world. Not only is it a place to seek refugee but is also home to many who found themselves homeless. Turkey made an effort to provide these people with social support; this includes camps to ensure shelter, as well as education, housing, and employment.

Of course, Turkey received assistance in trying to help the Syrian Refugees. The World Bank and the European Union (EU) assisted the Government of Turkey in their response to the refugee crisis. The main drive of this response to the crisis has been to improve the livelihoods of refugees. Not only should this response assist refugees but should also assist Turkish communities, both in rural areas and urban areas.

Mother and daughter standing outside of the provided shelter. Source: World Bank

The continued support from the World Bank and EU is evident through their joined partnership to better help the living conditions for the refugees and Turkish citizens in Turkey. This project will help over 3 million Turkish citizens and refugees in 5 municipalities. It is a project that is headed by the Municipal Services Improvement Project (MSIP) and is aimed to improve sanitation, solid waste management, and water supply. This will be done through the construction of water treatment plants, transmission plants, wastewater treatment plants, and, lastly, sewage collection networks and landfills.

The estimated number of Syrians under Temporary Protection (SuTPs) by the Government of Turkey is 2 225 147. That is according to the new Policy Note that is prepared by the World Bank, Turkey’s Response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis and the Road Ahead. This policy not only dives into the response Turkey had to the refugee crisis but also highlights the socioeconomic difficulties that are faced during these circumstances.

The response Turkey had to the crisis was more humanitarian-based. The support from Turkey was not only led by the government and official organizations but also by Turkish families and civil society organizations that made their own donations and other forms of assistance to the Syrian refugees. Many provinces in Turkey made personal financial contributions in support of the refugees.

Socioeconomic issues and solutions

Providing healthcare for Syrian Refugees. Source: Brookings

One of the biggest problems that the Government of Turkey faces during hosting the refugees is mitigating the negative impacts that could potentially emerge from hosting the SuTPs while trying to bring out the positive contributions refugees can bring.

Education is one of the areas that the Government of Turkey puts its focus on. There are three areas that Turkey took to ensure education. The first one is to integrate the children of Syria into the Turkish education system. The second one is to allow the community-based education programs to be run within the Syrian community. The reason behind this is that these programs have various curricula, and the Libyan curriculum and religious education are the most popular. The third area was the facilitation of the Syrian children to attend the SuTP-designed temporary education centers; these centers are managed by the Ministry of Education. Furthermore, they are administered by Turkish senior administrators, but the staff is Syrian teachers that use a modified version of the Syrian curriculum.

Housing and municipal matters are areas of importance when it comes to the refuge of Syrian citizens. The plan onset the arrival of the Syrians was to host them in households, which were built on the existing social, cultural, and economic network in Turkey. However, over time this had to change. The Migration Policy Centre shows that the new Syrian refugees had started finding their own accommodation as those who had lived with Turkish families had started to move out to find their own accommodation.

The Ministry of Health in Turkey showed that there were great efforts put into the effort to assist refugees that were in Turkey. Registered SuTPs were entitled to free healthcare from the Turkish facilities — this was upon their arrival. In communities, refugees were able to receive inpatient and primary healthcare services. Those who were not registered could access emergency care, and would later be required to register. Another effort that was put in place by the Government of Turkey was that it implemented campaigns in Arabic to spread knowledge on the prevention of diseases as well as the available healthcare services to them.

There is rising frustration during this time. This is both at local and provincial levels. In an effort to assist in these tensions, the SuTPs have access to social assistance and services made available by the government, municipalities, NGOs, and social solidarity foundations.

  • What is the future of SuTPs in Turkey?
  • Will refugee children continue to receive an education?
  • Is the healthcare system going to continue to provide free healthcare for refugees?

Suggested Readings

Rights and responsibilities: Solutions to the Syrian refugee crisis

World Bank, Turkey’s Response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis and the Road Ahead

EU EESC, Turkey’s role in the refugee crisis is crucial but there is room for improvement

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by Sigcine Manyathi time to read: 4 min
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