Migration and Displacement Dynamics in Europe and Commonwealth of Independent States

May 20, 2016

Statement by
Kamal Malhotra
United Nations Resident Coordinator, Turkey
Resident Representative, UNDP Turkey


The Turkey Context: Turkey can be described as a sending, transit and, more importantly, a destination country today.

Turkey has faced significant challenges because of its unique geographic position with its shared border with Syria and as the land bridge to Europe. As a result of this, Turkey received large influxes of refugees since the start of the Syrian crisis.   

Turkey hosts the most number of documented refugees in the world. As of this month, there were approximately 2.75 million registered Syrians Refugees in-country. 90 % of them live amongst impacted Turkish host communities and around 300,000 or 10 % live in designated refugee camps. Registered Syrian refugee numbers are predicted to continue to increase and could reach 3 million by end 2016, driven by the continuing political and security turmoil in neighboring Syria, which shares a 911 km border with Turkey.  

In addition to Syrian Refugees, Turkey hosts an estimated 267,000 non-Syrian refugees, mainly Afghan, Iraqi, as well as other nationalities. (Source UNHCR: April 2016).  Turkey is also a major transit route for people on the move, and it is estimated that 1 million people will have crossed Turkey journeying to Europe by end of 2016. (Source: Regional Refugee And Migrant Response Plan For Europe - Eastern Mediterranean and Western Balkan Route, January –December 2016, Population Planning Figure).

Many refugees take perilous and tragic journeys, and will, unfortunately, use more dangerous and expensive migration routes to Europe as the route to Greece becomes more restricted and less attractive. It will be essential to reduce these risks by ensuring that refugees have both international protection and humanitarian assistance, and by providing refugees in Turkey with much needed support through access to Education, Employment, and Social Cohesion.

Syrians with education and livelihood opportunities are more likely to remain in Turkey instead of migrating to Europe. This will also enhance their sense of dignity and hope.

The refugee crises has impacted both refugees and Turkish host communities leading to many local public services being overstretched because of increased population needs, in particular for schools and municipal services, such as waste management and water supply. These local service providers need to be assisted to expand their services and support efforts towards building and then maintaining solidarity and social cohesion between Turkish and refugee communities.     

The Government of Turkey has been extremely generous by hosting refugees in such large numbers, and providing humanitarian assistance to all registered Syrian Refugees through its Temporary Protection Legislation. The Government of Turkey has reportedly spent over $10 billion in the last 5 years to address the humanitarian needs of refugees. In January 2016, Turkey passed a new Regulation on “Work Permits for Foreigners under Temporary Protection”, that gives Syrian Refugees rights of access to formal employment, and livelihoods.  This privilege has also recently been extended to all refugees, not only to Syrians, a result of the EU -Turkey deal.     

Nevertheless, humanitarian action alone is no longer sufficient to address this protracted refugee crisis and the balance of the response strategy has shifted with the 2016 Turkey Chapter of the UN’s Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP) becoming more resilience-based providing for both humanitarian assistance but also development support to Turkey’s public service provider authorities to expand short to medium-term assistance to Syrian refugees and vulnerable Turkish citizens. The 3RP provides an integrated approach by providing for immediate humanitarian, protection, relief and educational needs as well as longer-term resilience support through strengthened municipal services and livelihood support for refugees in addition to support for strengthening local institutions.    

Thank you.

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