Syrian refugees collect fruit during the banana harvest, near the Turkey-Syrian border in Reyhanli district in Hatay city, Turkey, 22 February 2022 | Photo: Sedat Suna / EPA
Syrian refugees collect fruit during the banana harvest, near the Turkey-Syrian border in Reyhanli district in Hatay city, Turkey, 22 February 2022 | Photo: Sedat Suna / EPA

The European Union has allocated 50 million euros in additional funding to provide humanitarian aid to vulnerable refugees hosted in Turkey. The funds will support healthcare services as well as legal and psychological assistance for migrants.

The European Union has allocated €50 million more euros as humanitarian aid for the most vulnerable of the almost four million refugees hosted by Turkey.

The funds, announced on Tuesday, (June 14), by Brussels, will support healthcare services, legal consultancy, and psychological support for migrants and is coming in addition to the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN): a program that provides cash to the most vulnerable refugee families living in Turkey, who can spend the cash on whatever they decide is most important - food, fuel, rent or medicine.

The ESSN currently supports over 1.5 million people in Turkey. The Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič, said that the EU would "not forget the refugees in Turkey, many of whom have been displaced for over a decade now."

He was speaking during the announcement of the funds as part of a three-billion-euro package from the EU, on which Turkey will be able to count until 2024.

Ali's story

Some of the 3.7 million Syrians that Turkey currently hosts have been in the country for the past 10 years. Like Ali, 40, who fled in 2012 from his home in an outlying area of Aleppo, where he had been working in the construction sector.

"Life did not exist anymore there. There were bombings from different forces. This is why I decided to flee here," he told ANSA in a tent measuring a few square meters where he lives, in the outskirts of the Turkish city of Adana in southern Turkey.

Ali lives in the tent with his wife and six children, almost all of whom were born in Turkey. He is the only one in the family working outside the tent. He gets paid for harvesting tomatoes for 150 liras per day (less than €10) and owns only the tent in which his family lives.

Despite EU aid, which funds the Goal support center for the semi-nomadic community in Adana, as well as aid from the Turkish government, "there is never enough money," he said.

Ali told ANSA, he would like to earn at least 5,000 Turkish lira (just over €300) to ensure that his family can live a "decent" life. One of Ali's biggest concerns is to find facilities in Turkey to treat two of his children - aged 5 and 6 - who are deaf and mute.

"We took them to the doctor and they told us that there is no specialized support for them from the hospital," he said, looking at them while they sit next to him in the blistering heat of the tent. A noisy air conditioning unit has been set up in the tent but it does not work well.

Refugees say they 'will not return to Syria'

Despite many difficulties, Ali cannot even imagine going back to Syria. "There is no permanent peace. I cannot go back. I know very well that, if I were to go back, I would find bombing. I prefer to stay here, working to try to improve the situation for my family," he said.

Not even Naji, originally from Hama, believes that it will ever be possible to go back to Syria despite the growing frustration of the Turkish population against migrants and attacks by members of the local population on his pastry shop in the Hatay region, which borders Syria.

He lost his left leg when he was 17, during Russian bombing of his village in Syria. Naji is now 22 and can walk thanks to a prosthetic leg from a medical center run by Relief International and funded by EU humanitarian aid in Reyhanli, a small Turkish town along the border with northern Syria.

"I and all my family would like to stay here. We absolutely do not want to go back to Syria or go to the northern part of the country. I have children and relatives here and despite the fact that there has been discussion for years about the creation of a safe zone in northern Syria, what we are seeing is only bombing and crisis," he told ANSA while at a center in Reyhanli for maintenance work on the prosthetic leg.

Voluntary return?

The leg has enabled Naji to walk around. He received it shortly after arriving in Turkey in 2018, a year after being injured by the Russian bombing. His disappointment, like that expressed by many other migrants, is very out of line with a plan announced by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in early May.

The plan, now being preepared, allows for the "voluntary return" of one million Syrian refugees currently in Turkey to some areas of northern Syria, which Turkey intends to secure through a military operation it has announced will take place at some point against the US-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in control of those areas.

Turkey accuses the SDF of being part of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), designated a terrorist organisation in the EU, US, and Turkey. SDF leaders spent years in the PKK prior to forming the US-backed forces now in control of areas in which Turkey has said it intends to conduct the operations.


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