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Main host country for Syrian refugees


Many people from Syria seek shelter north of the border. No other country has received as many Syrian refugees as Turkey.In May 2016, over 2.7 million people had registered there. In addition, around 300,000 people have fled to Turkey from Iraq.The Turkish authorities have constructed a total of 25 refugee camps in ten provinces.

However, only a small proportion of the Syrian refugees are based there (around 280,000 people). The majority of them live in Istanbul, Ankara, and in areas in south and south-east Turkey. They receive identification papers from the State, which grant them, for instance, access to medical treatment. As of February 2016, refugees can also apply for work permits.

Truck for unloading relief supplies to Syrian refugees in Turkey
Aid transport for Syrian refugees in the city of Suruç, in south-east Turkey (photo: BMZ)

Turkey goes to great lengths to take care of refugees. On its own account, the country’s government has invested around eight billion US dollars so far. Providing sufficient education and training opportunities is a major challenge. More than half of the Syrian refugees are school-age children and teenagers.

In particular, there is a great strain on the social and economic infrastructure of the areas bordering Syria. Meanwhile, the border has been closed to passenger transport coming out of Syria. Visas are only issued on humanitarian grounds, such as in the event of medical emergencies.


A lot has been achieved, but there is still a long way to go

Light and heavy industry (textiles, vehicles, chemicals, machinery, electronics) is particularly strongly represented in western Turkey, and accounts for around 25% of the country’s GDP. The services sector accounts for the largest proportion of the GDP (approx. 60%), and continues to grow. According to figures from the World Bank, over one third of the workforce is employed in the agricultural sector, which accounts for around 10% of the country’s GDP.

The average unemployment rate in 2015 was just over 10%. High rates of illegal employment and the low female employment rate are still challenges for the labour market.

The overwhelming majority of employees in the industrial, agricultural and manual sectors continue to earn the official “minimum wage”. In 2016, the gross amount in Turkish lira was set at TRY 1,647 – approximately EUR 520. The development of real income has not been able keep up with economic development, and so the poorer segments of the population live on the bread-line.

Connection with Germany

Long-term partnership

Development Minister Gerd Müller visits a refugee camp on the Turkish-Syrian border
Development Minister Gerd Müller visits a refugee camp on the Turkish-Syrian border (photo: BMZ)

Since 2012, the German government has donated a total of EUR 240.2 million to Turkey for supplies for Syrian refugees. EUR 118 million has been spent on humanitarian aid by the Foreign Office, and EUR 122.2 million has been spent on mid-term and long-term projects by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). During a visit to Lebanon and Turkey in March 2015, Development Minister Gerd Müller promised the Turkish government initial support in the context of the Syrian crisis.

Through an infrastructure programme, the BMZ donated ten million euros for the construction and development of community and service centres.

Children playing in front of a school in Izmir, Turkey
Children in a school in Izmir (photo: Flickr, Rasmus Lerdorf (CC BY 2.0)

With EUR 1.4 million from the “Fighting the causes for migration – reintegrating refugees” initiative, the BMZ is piloting a training programme and, with an additional EUR 48.8 million, an employment programme.

The German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development is planning to significantly expand the level of support for refugees and their Turkish host communities. The fields of education, professional training, and social cohesion are set to be supported. A key partner for the implementation of the project is the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Need for support in the host communities

Support needed by 2.7 million Syrian refugees

Istanbul skyline - Karaköy - Istanbul - Turkey
View of Istanbul (photo: Flickr, Alexander Cahlenstein (CC BY 2.0))

Turkey accommodates the largest proportion of Syrian refugees (2.7 million people). Only about ten percent of refugees live in official refugee accommodation. The majority live in urban areas nationwide, just like in Jordan and Lebanon. They are mainly based in Istanbul, Ankara, and in municipalities in southern and south-eastern Turkey.

View of Ankara
View of Ankara (photo: Flickr, Jorge Franganillo (CC BY 2.0))

Between May and August 2016, the Service Agency Communities in One World determined the support requirements of Turkish municipalities in terms of their hosting capacity. The main focus was on the question of where municipal expertise was needed, and which contributions from German municipalities or local actors could be used to assist host communities.

Syrian and Turkish children learning together in Gaziantep, Turkey
Syrian and local children learning together in Gaziantep (photo: Flickr, European Commission DG ECHO (CC BY-ND 2.0))

The host communities in Turkey need support in the fields of integration, education and training. The design and establishment of integration committees, integration courses and civil dialogue could greatly benefit from the experience of German municipalities. In addition to the building of schools and the improvement of educational facilities, it is also necessary to grant scholarships to students, and to promote adult education. This is another area in which Turkish municipalities may be able to rely on the wealth of experience of German municipalities.

Children in front of sanitary containers in refugee camp Suruç, Turkey
Sanitary containers in a refugee camp in Suruç, but not a permanent solution (photo: Flickr, European Union/ECHO/Caroline Gluck(CC BY-ND 2.0)

Needs are also obvious in key municipal fields such as sanitation, water provision and waste management. The rapid increases in population figures are noticeable in many municipalities. The water supply and wastewater management systems are not sufficiently equipped to cover the high number of additional people. German municipalities could provide their expertise in order to expand of the sewer system.

Handyman on scaffolding for residential construction (symbol)
Building social housing is one of the many areas of activity (photo: Pixabay)

The fields of youth employment, work/careers and living are also relevant in the Turkish host communities. The establishment of vocational training centres, for example, could be beneficial for refugees without professional training. Cooperation with German municipalities and professional associations can be advantageous here. German municipalities are also able to share their expertise in order to improve social housing with which to support groups which do not have any chance on the free housing market.

Opportunities for involvement

There are several ways in which you can get involved in your municipality. We will be happy to advise you on the different areas of activity, and how you can get involved. Get in touch with out points of contact directly, or fill in the interest form.

Recommended links

Would you like to find out more about Turkey?

More information can be found in the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH (German Society for International Cooperation) Country Information Portal.


Statistics, facts and figures on the host communities

Further information on the situation in Turkey
Further information on the situation in Turkey