Due to its border of nearly 900km with Syria, Turkey has been profoundly affected by the Syrian crisis. To date, nearly 3 million Syrian refugees are in Turkey, with 2.7 million already registered. Turkey has become the largest refugee hosting country in history. This influx is so large that the 25 refugee camps built by the Government of Turkey house less than 10% of the Syrian refugee population. The vast majority of refugees are in urban and rural settings. Young refugees in these fragile environments have difficulties accessing an education because of language barriers and young women are exposed to gender-based violence. RET has become heavily involved in the Southeast to address the needs of these vulnerable youth, women and girls. We primarily focus on Turkish Language Training to ensure that the majority of the 500’000 out of school Syrian refugee children and youth can access Turkish schools. We also work with women and girls and have supported 50 Women’s Cultural Centres throughout Şanlıurfa Province and CATOMs in Mardin. RET is partnered with various Ministries of the Government of Turkey at the national, provincial and district levels, AFAD, UNICEF, UNFPA and UNHCR, with the support of numerous donors.
The Crisis Affecting Turkey
Its Impact on Young People
How RET Protects Them
1. The Crisis Affecting Turkey
The Syrian internal conflict and its effects on the region as a whole have been recognised as the worst humanitarian crisis in over two decades by the UNHCR.
Due to its border of nearly 900 km with Syria, Turkey has been profoundly affected. Presently, 2.7 million Syrians have sought refuge in the country and are registered; the total number could actually be double. They reside mainly in Southeastern Turkey, where the Government’s efforts to provide for basic needs are reaching their limits. According to Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD), 229,000 Syrians are currently living in refugee camps across Southeastern Turkey. Moreover, there are at least half a million Syrian refugees residing in Istanbul and other main cities.
Initially, the Government of Turkey chose to handle the crisis by its own means, leaving the international community to concentrate on other regions. It greeted its Syrian guests with an open border policy and built 25 camps to host them.
Despite the investment of nearly 8 billion USD by the Government of Turkey, the magnitude of the influx of Syrian refugees exceeds their capacity to continue acting independently. The majority of Syrians do not have access to the camps and live in villages and cities near the border, with limited access to basic services, though the Government of Turkey provides healthcare to all registered Syrians under temporary protection.
2. Its Impact on Young People
As the crisis deepens and the numbers grow, tensions between refugee and host communities inevitably arise. To alleviate such tensions, it is imperative to ensure that the Syrian children and youth are not idle, but have access to education, leading to self-reliance over time.
For young people in non-camp settings education is limited. The Disaster and Emergency Management Authority of Turkey estimates that within the camps 83% of Syrian youth have access to education.
Young women are particularly vulnerable, as they are exposed to sexual violence, early marriages and even to becoming child brides or victims of sex trafficking. Not fully aware of their rights and often not allowed to travel alone, if they are not able to speak Turkish, they have little or no access to assistance. Thus, RET’s programme for women includes “survival Turkish”, livelihoods training, income-generating activities and referrals to services, such as specialised medical care.
3. How RET Protects Them
To address the needs of these vulnerable youth RET has been active in Turkey since 2013, starting with thorough assessments of the needs and assets in the region. In 2014, RET was recognised officially as a partner by the Government of Turkey and has started to provide protection and education to Syrian young people throughout Turkey.
RET’s first actions focus on the Southeastern region on certified language trainings for Syrian youth in order to facilitate communication between host and refugee communities and provide access to the Turkish education system. These training courses are tailored at various levels, ranging from “survival” Turkish to A1 through C1 level accredited courses for access to Turkish schools and universities.
RET also works with Women Community Centres to reduce risks of sexual and gender-based violence among vulnerable refugee and host community women. For those already victims of violence, life-saving support for survivors is to be provided in coordination with the local authorities.
Prevention of gender based violence, language courses or access to vocational training are all the elements that will protect Syrian youth during this period of crisis, while helping host populations continue to welcome their neighbours with generosity.
Currently, RET International runs 6 Turkish language schools and collaborates with 24 local Women’s Centres and CATOMs with partners such as UNICEF, UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency), UNFPA (the UN Population Fund), the Japanese Platform (representing the Government of Japan and Japanese private sector), JCCP, the Government of Luxembourg, the UK Embassy, and the various cantons of Switzerland, including Basel, and the Asfari Foundation.
Fundamentally important to RET’s success in Turkey is the enduring partnership and collaboration that we have developed with the Government of Turkey – the Ministry of National Education and AFAD in particular, The Ministry of Family and Social Policies, as well as the Governors and District Governors and the municipal government officials who are vital for the implementation of our projects.