Aiding Syrian refugees in Turkey: International approaches and domestic policies
More details
Hide details
Department of Political Science and International Relations, University of Pécs, Hungary
Sára Gibárti   

Department of Political Science and International Relations, University of Pécs, Hungary
Submission date: 2020-05-20
Final revision date: 2020-12-29
Acceptance date: 2020-12-29
Online publication date: 2021-03-09
Publication date: 2021-03-09
Security and Defence Quarterly 2021;33(1)
After the breakout and the escalation of the Syrian civil war and because of its humanitarian consequences, Turkey now hosts the largest refugee community worldwide. This paper attempts to investigate the role of the international community in assisting Syrian refugees in Turkey. Beyond looking at the main elements of the Turkish government policies, this study focuses on the Emergency Social Safety Net Programme of the European Union, the World Food Programme and the Turkish Red Crescent. It also reviews the Turkish aspects of the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan of the United Nations. The primary purpose of the study is to provide a comparative analysis of the two programmes alongside the main objectives, results and difficulties. Beyond reviewing the essential international literature, the examination of this issue is principally based on data analysis of the reports of relevant international organisations. The Turkish government plays an important role in this crisis and the actions of international organisations complement the country’s domestic policies. Two international aid programmes are compared and a conclusion is reached that the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan tries to balance urgent humanitarian needs with durable solutions, while the Emergency Social Safety Net Programme is determined by humanitarian aspects. Nonetheless, both initiatives address the challenges to the Turkish host community which are posed by the protracted refugee issue. While acknowledging the remaining gaps, challenges and the obvious complexity of the refugee situation in Turkey, it can be concluded that the aid initiatives discussed have developed innovative solutions to address this protracted crisis.
3RP (2015) 2015 Annual Report, Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan in Response to the Syria Crisis, pp. 32–40. Available at: (Accessed: 24 October 2020).
3RP (2020a) Turkey Country Chapter 2020/2021, Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan in Response to the Syria Crisis. pp. 9–79. Available at: (Accessed: 25 October 2020).
3RP (2020b) Turkey Country Chapter 2019 – Monitoring Report, Inter-sectoral Monitoring and Evaluation for the 3RP for Turkey, pp. 3–11. Available at: ME%20Report%202019_Final%2011Sept20.pdf (Accessed: 25 October 2020).
AFAD (2013) Syrian Refugees in Turkey, 2013 – Field Survey Results, Republic of Turkey, Prime Ministry, Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency. Available at: (Accessed: 25 October 2020).
Al Jazeera (2017) ’Erdogan offers citizenship to Syrian and Iraqi refugees’, 7 January, Available at: (21 September 2020).
Bélanger, D. and Saracoglu, C. (2019) ’Syrian refugees and Turkey: Whose Crisis?’, in Menjívar, C., Ruiz, M. and Ness, I. (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Migration Crises. New York: Oxford University Press.
Betts, A. and Collier, P. (2017) Refuge – Rethinking Refugee Policy in a Changing World. New York: Oxford University Press.
Carlier, W. (2018) The Widening Educational Gap for Syrian Refugee Children – Background Report. Amsterdam: KidsRight Foundation. Available at: (Accessed: 27 September 2020).
Cuevas, P. F., Inaan, O. K., Twose, A. and Çelik, Ç. (2019) Vulnerability and Protection of Refugees in Turkey – Findings from the Rollout of the Largest Humanitarian Cash Assistance Programme in the World. Washington D.C.: The World Bank – the World Food Programme. doi: 10.1596/31813.
Daily Shabah (2019) ‘Turkey urges countries to take more responsibility for refugees’, 17 December. Available at: (Accessed: 24 October 2020).
Daily Shabah (2020) ‘Turkey sets an example in schooling rate of Syrian refugees’ 4 March, Available at: (Accessed: 25 October 2020).
Danış, D. and Nazlı, D. (2018) ‘A Faithful Alliance Between the Civil Society and the State: Actors and Mechanisms of Accommodating Syrian Refugees in Istanbul’, International Migration, 57(2), pp. 143–157. doi: 10.1111/imig.12495.
Directorate General of Migration Management, Ministry of Interior, Republic of Turkey (2020) Statistics on Temporary Protection, DGMM Online. Available at: (Accessed: 18 October 2020).
Dost, P. (2018) ‘Loose Ends of a Deal’ The Cairo Review of Global Affairs, Summer 30/2018. pp. 111–120. Available at: (Accessed: 30 September 2020).
ECHO (2020) European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations – Turkey. European Commission. Available at: (Accessed: 25 October 2020).
Erdoğan, R. T. (2016) ‘When the world failed Syria, Turkey stepped in. Now others must help’, The Guardian, 23 March. Available at: (Accessed: 24 October 2020).
Erdoğan, M. M. and Çorabatır, M. (2019) Demographic Development of the Syrian Refugee Population and its Potential Impacts on the Education, Employment and Municipality Services in the Near Future. Udra Programme Research Panel, pp. 6–22.
Erdoğan, M. M. (2020) Syrians Barometer 2019 – A framework for achieving social cohesion with Syrians in Turkey. Ankara: Orion Kitabevi. Available at: (Accessed: 20 October 2020).
Ferris, E. and Kirişci, K. (2016) The Consequences of Chaos: Syria’s Humanitarian Crisis and the Failure to Protect. Washington D.C.: The Marshall Papers, Brooking Institution Press.
Government of Turkey (2018) Exit Strategy From The ESSN Program, Frit Office of the Presidency of Turkey. Available at: (Accessed: 25 October 2020).
Heaslip, G., Kovács, Gy. and Hraavisto, I. (2018) ‘Innovations in humanitarian supply chains: the case of cash transfer programmes’, Production Planning & Control, (29)14, pp. 1175–1190. doi:10.1080/09537287.2018.1542172.
Hürriyet Daily News (2019a) ‘Age standard to start primary school revised’, 6 July. Available at: https://www.hurriyetdailynews.... (Accessed: 26 September 2020).
Hürriyet Daily News (2019b) ‘415,000 Syrian babies born in Turkey since 2011: Ministry’, 20 June. Available at: https://www.hurriyetdailynews.... (Accessed: 12 October 2020).
İçduygu, A. and Diker, E. (2017) ‘Labor Market Integration of Syrian Refugees in Turkey: From Refugees to Settlers’, The Journal of Migration Studies, 2017, 3/1. pp. 12–35. Available at: (Accessed: 20 October 2020).
İçduygu, A. and Şimşek, D. (2016) ‘Syrian Refugees in Turkey: Towards Integration Policies’, Turkish Policy Quarterly 15(3) pp. 59–69.
İçduygu, A. (2015) Syrian Refugees in Turkey – The Long Road Ahead. Washington D.C.: Migration Policy Institue. Available at: https://www.migrationpolicy.or... (Accessed: 26 September 2020).
Ineli-Ciger, M. (2017) ‘Protecting Syrians in Turkey: A Legal Analysis’, International Journal of Refugee Law, (29)4, pp. 555–579. doi: 10.1093/ijrl/eex042.
Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (2020) Global Report on Internal Displacement, Geneva: IDMC, p. 11. Available at: https://www.internal-displacem... (Accessed: 25 September 2020).
Karasapan, O. and Shah, S. (2019) ‘Syrian refugees and the schooling challenge’, Brookings Institution. Available at: (Accessed: 27 September 2020).
Karasapan, O. (2019) ‘Turkey’s Syrian refugees welcome fades’, Brookings Institution. Available at: https:// (Accessed: 24 October 2020).
Karlstrom, K., Specker, L., Mooty, E. and Kennedy, B. (2018) Outcome Monitoring Report – 3RP Turkey Chapter 2018. 3RP. Available at: (Accessed: 20 October 2020).
Khawaja, B. (2016) ‘Educate refugee children or lose them forever’, Al Jazeera Opinion. Available at: https:// (Accessed: 11 October 2020).
Kirişci, K. and Ferris, E. (2015) ‘Not likely to Go Home: Syrian Refugees and the Challenges to Turkey – and the International Community’, Turkey Project Policy Paper, 7 September, Center on the United States and Europe at Brookings. Available at: (Accessed: 20 September 2020).
Kirişçi, K. (2012) ‘Turkey’s New Draft Law on Asylum: What to Make of It?’, in Paçaçı Elitok, S. and Straubhaar, T. (eds.) Turkey, Migration and the EU: Potentionals, Challanges and Opportunities. Hamburg: Hamburg University Press, pp. 63-83. Available at: (Accessed: 20 October 2020).
Kirişci, K. (2014) Syrian Refugees and Turkey’s Challenges: Going Beyond Hospitality. Washington D. C.: Brookings Institution. Available at: (Accessed: 18 September 2020).
Kirişci, K. (2020) How the EU and Turkey can promote self-reliance for Syrian refugees through agricultural trade. Washington D. C.: Brookings Institution – TENT Partnership for Refugees, pp. 16-23. Available at: (Accessed: 28 October 2020).
Köşer Akçapar, Ş. and Şimşek, D. (2018) ‘The Politics of Syrian Refugees in Turkey: A Question of Inclusion and Exclusion through Citizenship’, Social Inclusion, (6)1, pp. 176–187. doi: 10.17645/si.v6i1.1323.
Law No. 2013/6458 Law on Foreigners and International Protection. Government of Turkey. Available at: (Accessed: 26 September 2020).
McClelland, M. (2014) ‘How to Build a Perfect Refugee Camp?’, The New York Times, 13 February. Available at: (Accessed: 23 September 2020).
Memişoğlu, F. (2018a) The Syrian Community in Turkey: Perspectives, Prospects and Policies. Istanbul: Public Policy and Democracy Studies. Available at: (Accessed: 11 October 2020).
Memişoğlu, F. (2018b) Assessing the Development – Displacement Nexus. Vienna: International Centre for Migration Policy Development.
Middle East Monitor (2018) More than 300,000 stateless Syrian babies born in Turkey since 2011. Available at: https://www.middleeastmonitor.... (Accessed: 9 October 2020).
National Legislative Bodies/National Authorities (1994) Turkey: Regulation No. 1994/6169 on the Procedures and Principles related to Possible Population Movements and Aliens Arriving in Turkey either as Individuals or in Groups Wishing to Seek Asylum either from Turkey or Requesting Residence Permission in order to Seek Asylum From Another Country (last amended 2006), 19 January 1994. Available at: (Accessed: 28 February 2021).
OCHA (2019) Global Humanitarian Overview 2020. Geneva: OCHA. Available at: sites/unocha/files/GHO-2020_v9.1.pdf (Accessed: 25 September 2020).
Orhan, O. and Senyücel Gündoğar, S. S. (2015) ‘Effects of the Syrian refugees on Turkey’, ORSAM Report No: 195. Available at: (Accessed: 20 October 2020).
Paçaçı Elitok, S. (2018) ‘Turkey Migration Policy Revisited: (Dis)Continuities and Peculiarities’, Instituto Affari Internazionali Papers, 18(16). Available at: (Accessed: 21 October 2020).
Parker, B. (2019) ‘EXCLUSIVE: EU transfers €500m Turkey aid project to IFRC – but mulls exit strategy’, The New Humanitarian, 24 October. Available at: https://www.thenewhumanitarian... (Accessed: 25 October 2020).
Senyücel Gündoğar, S. and Dark, G. (2019) ‘Turkey’s Evolving Response to Migration Management: Facts and Policy Steps’, MENARA Future Notes, 17. Available at: (Accessed: 20 October 2020).
Stock, I., Aslan, M., Paul, J., Volmer, V. and Faist, T. (2016) Beyond humanitarianism – Adressing the urban, self-settled refugees in Turkey. Bielefeld: COMCAD Working Papers.
Tappis, H. and Doocy, S. (2017) ‘The effectiveness and value for money of cash- based humanitarian assistance: a systematic review’, Journal of Development Effectiveness, 10(1), pp. 121–144. doi:10.1080/19439342.2017.1363804.
The Economist (2017) ‘Turkey is taking care of refugees, but failing to integrate them’, 29 June. Available at: (Accessed: 25 October 2020).
TIKA (2018) Turkey Development Assistance Report 2017. Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency, Department of Strategy Development. Available at: (Accessed: 25 September 2020).
Turkish Red Crescent and WFP (2018) Emergency Social Safety Net: Post-Distribution Monitoring Report Round 1, WFP. Available at: (Accessed: 26 October 2020).
Turkish Red Crescent and WFP (2019) Refugees in Turkey – Livelihoods Survey Findings. Ankara: Turkish Red Crescent Society – The World Food Programme. Available at: (Accessed: 23 September 2020).
Turkish Red Crescent (2020): Kızılaykart Programmes 2020 September. Türk Kızılay. Available at: (Accessed: 25 October 2020).
UNDP Turkey (2020) Support to Public Institutions in the Turkey 3RP 2018-2019, 3RP. Available at: (Accessed: 22 October 2020).
UNHCR (2016) Evaluation of UNHCR’s Emergency Response to the influx of Syrian Refugees into Turkey January 2014-June 2015, ES/2016/03. Geneva: UNHCR. Available at: (Accessed: 20 October 2020).
UNHCR (2019a) Global Trends – Forced Displacement in 2018. Geneva: UNHCR. Available at: (Accessed: 8 October 2020).
UNHCR (2020) Syria Regional Refugee Response, UNHCR. Available at: (Accessed: 15 October 2020).
UNHCR Turkey (2019) Provincial Breakdown Syrian Refugees in Turkey, August 2019, UNHCR Turkey. Available at: (Accessed: 23 September 2020).
UNICEF (2015) An Independent Evaluation of UNICEF’s Response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis in Turkey, 2012–2015. New York: UNICEF. Available at: (Accessed: 30 September 2020).
United Nations (2013) Syria Regional Response Plan, pp. 8–14, 211–217. Available at: (Accessed: 23 October 2020).
WFP (2015) An Evaluation of WFP’s Regional Response to the Syrian Crisis, 2011-2014 Evaluation Report, April 2015. Rome: World Food Programme – Overseas Development Institute. Available at: (Accessed: 30 September 2020).
WFP (2016a) Decentralized Evaluation of the ECHO funded Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) in Turkey November 2016-December 2017. Ankara: WFP Country Office. Available at: (Accessed 26 October, 2020).
WFP (2016b) FAQ on Emergency Social Safety Net, WFP. Available at: (25 October 2020).
WFP (2018) Evaluation of the DG ECHO funded Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) in Turkey November 2016–February 2018 Volume 1: Final Evaluation Report. Ankara: WFP Country Office. Available at: (Accessed: 25 October 2020).
WFP (2019) The Emergency Social Safety Net, July-September 2019. WFP. Available at: (Accessed: 26 October 2020).
World Bank Group (2015) Turkey’s Response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis and the Road Ahead. Washington D.C.: The World Bank. Available at: https://openknowledge.worldban... (Accessed: 20 October 2020).
Yılmaz, V. (2018) ‘The Emerging Welfare Mix for Syrian Refugees in Turkey: The Interplay between Humanitarian Assistance Programmes and the Turkish Welfare System’, Journal of Social Policy, (48) 4 October 2019, pp. 721–739. doi: 10.1017/s0047279418000806.