The Syrian civil conflict, which started as part of the Arab Spring in March 2011, has developed into one of the worst humanitarian crises of the last decades. Its consequences in Syria are truly devastating, and neighboring countries have not been spared. RET’s interventions must therefore be extremely well prepared.
According to the data circulated by UNHCR, two and a half million Syrians are officially refugees in five different neighboring countries, and this number is actually significantly higher, when considering those who are not yet officially registered as refugees and asylum-seekers. It is a regional crisis in which not only the violence of the fighting, but also its associated displacement, are causing terrible damage.
RET strategically chose to launch two operations, one in Turkey and the other in Lebanon. Lebanon is 10,452 km2, with a population of 4.5 million and a fragile government, whereas Turkey is the world’s 15th largest economy, is 783,562 km2 and is home to over 75 million people. This is enough to illustrate the fact that a one-size-fits-all approach to the crisis is simply not feasible. For RET, this is a regional crisis, but which calls for custom-tailored local solutions.
Lebanon hosts almost 900’000 Syrian refugees (a number which does not even include non-registered refugees) who represent 1/5th of the population. It is therefore undeniable that the Syrian crisis is heavily affecting this little Middle Eastern country. The Lebanese government hosts Syrian refugees with openness, but is struggling to provide basic services to its own community and to the refugees at the same time.
RET in Lebanon is currently working in close collaboration with UNHCR and the other actors involved in the Regional Response Plan in several sectors: education, social cohesion, protection and gender-based violence as well as livelihoods. The RET’s interventions, which have been designed during the last months, respond to the needs of the most vulnerable young urban Syrian refugees in the country.
Refugees are often hosted by generous local communities, but the local economy and social systems are under pressure. For this reason, RET decided to develop a programme which aims to support the entire communities, either directly or indirectly. The actions will therefore support both Syrians and Lebanese youth.
RET will work closely with the local government, using public structures to reach the affected youth, specifically young mothers and their children and provide support according to the needs of the areas. Particular attention is given to educational needs and to the creation of a cohesive social environment.
Turkey is a completely different story. The Turkish authorities have had an open border policy, welcoming the Syrian refugees as “guests”. The Turkish Government has already invested over 2.5 billion USD to protect refugees in 22 refugee camps, responding to their growing needs with impressive high standards, and adding camps where needed. Currently, there are approximately 220’000 refugees in camps while 750’000 Syrians remain in urban areas throughout the country. The influx of refugees continues and is expected to increase.
The impact of Syrian displacement in the South-East Provinces of Turkey is now exceeding the capability of the Turkish Government to continue alone in the response. Young Syrian people outside the camps have little or no access to education because of the lack of capacity in secondary schools in urban settings and the fact that most Syrians do not speak Turkish.
By collaborating with AFAD (Prime Ministry – Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency) and local authorities in South–East Turkey, RET aims to build new schools and provide quality secondary education in the refugees’ mother tongue, as well as language courses to create a bridge with the local Turkish population.
RET is now prepared to respond to the educational needs of displaced Syrian youth in Turkey, who represent 14.2 % of the Syrian refugee population. The programmes will give them a chance to be self-reliant and enable them to play a lead role in their country’s reconstruction at the end of the conflict in Syria.
Despite these two vastly different situations, the immensity and the complexity of the task which lies ahead, is similar. This crisis is a challenge, which the international community will have to live up to. At RET, we are ready to be part of the solution.