The European Union has allocated almost €10 billion ($10.5 billion) to support refugees and host communities in Turkey since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Deutsche Welle Turkish service reported on Wednesday, citing a press release.
The EU has disbursed more than €5 billion since 2016 as part of the Facility for Refugees in Turkey program, while €2.2 billion from the additional €3 billion allocated until 2023 has already been committed.
According to the recently published Seventh Annual Report of the Facility, the financial assistance was directed for such key areas as basic needs, education, health, socio-economic support, municipal infrastructure and strengthening border management, in close cooperation with the Turkish authorities.
More than 2.6 million refugees have received direct support via a debit card system, while 811,181 children have benefited from an EU program that supports school enrolment and attendance of refugee children. Also, more than 12,000 educational facilities have been upgraded and a total of 117 schools were constructed.
Two hospitals and 187 Migrant Health Centers are operational, and around 4,000 healthcare personnel are working in EU-supported facilities in Turkey.
More than 26,000 women have completed short-term vocational skill training, while around 40,000 women have benefitted from employment counseling services due to the entrepreneurship training grants provided to both Syrian refugee and host community start-ups and existing entrepreneurs.
The facility also allocated a total of €80 million for two projects aimed at strengthening the search and rescue capacity of the Turkish Coast Guard and the management of returns from the EU.
According to the press release, the EU has directed €30 million to enhance migration management and border control and €220 million have been allocated in 2022 to help Turkey address the increased migratory pressure in its eastern borders, through the provision of equipment, technical assistance and training, under the additional €3 billion for 2021-23.
Olivér Várhelyi, commissioner for neighbourhood and enlargement, stated on Wednesday that the EU would continue to stand by the refugees and host communities in Turkey.
“The Commission has made a proposal to the Member States to continue to mobilize support beyond 2023 – fit for the current realities on the ground, and as a major investment in stability and security – and I hope discussions among Member States on the matter can be finalized swiftly,” Várhelyi added.
Turkey has become the world’s leading host country for refugees, with 3.6 million individuals seeking shelter, according to a recent UNHCR report.
Turkey and the EU signed a “statement of cooperation” in 2016 that stipulated Turkey would take measures to stop irregular migrants from traveling to the Greek islands from its shores; that all new irregular migrants and asylum seekers arriving from Turkey to the Greek islands and whose applications for asylum were declared inadmissible be returned to Turkey; and that for every Syrian returned from the islands, EU Member states would accept one refugee who had waited inside Turkey. In exchange, Turkey would receive €6 billion to improve the humanitarian situation faced by refugees in the country, and Turkish nationals would be granted visa-free travel to Europe.
Despite the deal, Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan has repeatedly criticized EU officials for failing to provide Turkey with sufficient support to ease the country’s huge refugee population.
EU leaders, on the other hand, have accused Erdoğan of using migrants as bargaining chips by pushing them towards the Greek border.