Turkey is an upper middle income country with an economy ranked 17th largest in the world, and it is currently in negotiations for entry into the European Union. With international borders including Iraq and Syria, Turkey has had a greater influx of people fleeing conflict than any other country in the world and now hosts three million refugees, 2.7 million of them Syrians. The majority of them live in communities, but there are still around 260,000 living in camps.
The influx of refugees has increased the size of some host communities by up to 30 percent, straining the local markets and infrastructure. Further strain is added by informal migration, with around 885,000 people entering Europe via Turkey in 2015.
Registered Syrians have access to healthcare, education, social services and the labour market. However, while legislation allows Syrians to apply for work permits, it remains difficult for most refugees to find formal employment, forcing many to move within Turkey to areas where they can secure informal work. This kind of work is low paid; many refugees live in poor-quality housing and struggle to earn a minimum wage.
The World Food Programme (WFP) works in Turkey to assist refugees, both those living in camps and those in host communities. The Turkish people and institutions have so far been at the forefront of the emergency response, placing a significant burden on Turkey’s own economic resources. In addition to helping refugees through cash transfers that are spent in local businesses, WFP is helping the Turkish economy by purchasing the bulk of food commodities for the Syrian Regional Emergency Operation from Turkey.
In September 2016, WFP signed the largest humanitarian deal in European history: a €348 million contract with the European Union to roll out a programme known as the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN). Partnering with the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO), WFP will join forces with the Turkish Red Crescent and the Turkish government to lessen the suffering of over a million refugees in Turkey and help to restore a sense of normal life to those living outside camps.
What the World Food Programme is doing in Turkey
Helping Syrian refugees in camps
WFP works with the Turkish Red Crescent to help provide food assistance to 140,000 of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees still living in camps in Turkey. Starting in October 2012, the two organizations rolled out an e-food card programme that adds a monthly balance to families’ debit cards so that they can buy food from local shops. While helping improve food security, this injects nearly US$200 million into the Turkish economy.
Helping refugees outside camps
WFP provides food assistance to nearly 150,000 of the most vulnerable refugees living in host communities. In partnership with the Turkish Red Crescent, WFP is providing monthly cash transfers that people can use to shop for food, clothes or medicines or to pay rent and utility bills. Under the ESSN, more than a million people will eventually be supported this way.
Procuring food for WFP operations
Between 2011 and September 2016, WFP procured over US$1.3 billion of food from Turkey, 60 percent of which was used to support the people of Syria as part of the Syria Regional Emergency Operation. This has made Turkey WFP’s largest supplier of food commodities worldwide since 2014.