Operation: Opération: Turkey



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Key Figures

2020 year-end results
383,118 people with specific needs received cash grants
52,730 people of concern were assessed for vulnerability
5,301 people were provided with legal assistance
4,048 people were assisted to depart Turkey on resettlement
2021 planning figures
225,000 people of concern will be assessed for vulnerability 
99,580 people with specific needs will receive cash grants 
65,000 people of concern will be enrolled in language classes 
18,500 people will be provided with legal assistance
20,000 people will be submitted for resettlement

People of Concern Personnes relevant de la compétence du HCR

Increase in
2020 3,974,550
2019 3,907,789
2018 3,993,522


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  • 2014
  • 2015
  • 2016
  • 2017
  • 2018
  • 2019
  • 2020
  • 2021

Operational context

Since 2014, Turkey has been the country hosting the largest number of refugees under UNHCR’s mandate in the world – with the vast majority being nationals of the Syrian Arab Republic. In 2019, the number of Syrians with temporary protection status remained stable at nearly 3.6 million. Over 98% of Syrians lived in urban, peri-urban and rural areas, with less than 2% residing in seven remaining temporary accommodation centers.

As a result of the EU-Turkey Statement, movements on the western border remained comparatively small, with only a modest increase in onward movements to the European Union.

Turkey’s Law on Foreigners and International Protection, together with the Temporary Protection Regulation, continues to provide a strong legal framework for people in need of international protection, including access to services upon registration with the Directorate General of Migration Management (DGMM).

UNHCR continued to strengthen its collaboration with State institutions at the national, provincial and local levels who, despite actively delivering services and assistance to refugees, found their capacities stretched in the face of extensive demands. The operation provided important technical and human resources support to improve access to registration and enhance the capacity and quality of public services, especially for people with specific needs. UNHCR also cooperated with DGMM, line ministries, authorities at national, provincial and local levels, local leaders, refugees and civil society in order to implement a range of social inclusion and co-existence initiatives targeted at both host communities and refugees.

With Turkey financing the bulk of its refugee response, the Government called for sustained international responsibility-sharing in line with the Global Compact on Refugees, and proactively contributed to the Global Refugee Forum in December 2019.

UNHCR co-led the refugee and resilience response plan to the Syria crisis (3RP) together with UNDP, coordinating support to Turkey’s refugee response through the Syria Task Force (STF) and sector working groups. The 2019-2020 3RP strategy was launched in March 2019 with government, United Nations and NGO partners and donors. Under the cycle of the United Nations Development Cooperation Framework (UNDCF) for 2016-2020, UNHCR also chaired the Migration and International Protection Results Group.

Population trends

In 2019, Turkey hosted close to 3.6 million Syrians with temporary protection status, in addition to some 330,000 refugees and asylum-seekers of other nationalities (including 56,400 new international protection applicants from Afghanistan (62%), Iraq (28%) and the Islamic Republic of Iran (6%)).  

The Turkish Coast Guard reported that interceptions and rescues at sea along the western sea borders increased by nearly 130% during the year. Among those intercepted, 44% were Afghan and 29% Syrian nationals.

The Turkish Land Forces reported intercepting over 47,700 individuals at the western land borders. The number of apprehensions at other land borders decreased however: by 29% at the border with the Syrian Arab Republic; by 75% at the Iraqi border; and by 53% at the Iranian land border.
The dossiers of more than 17,552 refugees were submitted to some 18 countries for resettlement, with over 10,500 departing for resettlement in 2019. Working closely with DGMM, UNHCR observed voluntary repatriation interviews of more than 34,300 refugees who chose to return to the Syrian Arab Republic during the year.


  • UNHCR assisted the DGMM and its provincial directorates to reduce backlogs and registration waiting periods, and in the identification of people with specific needs.
  • The Partnership with the Union of Turkish Bar Associations enabled refugees to access legal assistance, including through three Legal Clinics, and, as needed, legal aid through support to Bar Associations in 18 provinces.
  • UNHCR supported the DGMM to verify the registration records of over 2.7 million Syrians, which was completed in February 2019, in parallel with ongoing registration and the updating of registration records for both temporary and international protection.
  • In cooperation with the Gendarmerie and the Turkish Coast Guard, reception conditions and procedures were improved for intercepted and rescued persons, particularly at border posts.
  • UNHCR’s digital platforms – helpline, Facebook page, and counselling hotline – reached over 1 million people.

Unmet needs

Despite legal aid provided by 18 bar associations with UNHCR’s support, more support to bar associations was needed, as in the case of legal clinics, including more interpreters and technical support personnel for DGMM.

Specialized support for people with serious medical conditions remained challenging, and there were limited resettlement places for such cases.

Only 2% of the 360,000 Syrian refugees with resettlement needs (and 0.2 % of the total Syrian refugee population in Turkey) departed in 2019. One of the main limitations in finding resettlement places was resettlement country requirements. At least 14,000 Iraqi refugees had resettlement needs in 2019, however only 6% of these cases were submitted due to limited quotas.

Working environment

 The conflict in Syria continues to be the cause of the largest number of displaced people and refugees in the world today. In September 2018, 5.64 million Syrian refugees were registered in the neighbouring countries, of whom over 3.6 million were in Turkey. In addition, Turkey is currently hosting some 360,000 refugees and asylum-seekers from countries other than Syria, mainly from Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran.
As the conflict in Syria continues, the level of vulnerability of Syrian refugees continues to increase. The resources refugees had when they first fled have long since been exhausted and the needs of refugees are posing increased strains on the national systems and resources of host countries and communities. While the humanitarian response in the countries around Syria continues and international support remains high, actors are only able to address the most pressing needs. Efforts are being made to boost capacity of national institutions, and a positive impact is starting to be seen in the resilience of the communities in Turkey and within the region at large.
As a result of increasing vulnerability, onward movements to Europe continue even if in significantly smaller numbers than before.
The Government of Turkey continues to lead the protection of and assistance to refugees and asylum-seekers in Turkey demonstrating strong ownership of the response.

Key priorities

 On the basis of the national legal framework for international and temporary protection holders, UNHCR will promote protection-sensitive border management and access to protection for people of concern, including by improving access to information and legal assistance. UNHCR will continue to support the Directorate General for Migration Management (DGMM) with registration of Syrian refugees and in efforts to develop the national asylum-system, including registration and refugee status determination (RSD) procedures for people seeking international protection in Turkey.
UNHCR will continue to advocate and support the inclusion of refugees into national systems, by strengthening cooperation with line ministries and institutions at national, provincial and local levels and by providing technical and capacity-building support. While inclusion into national services is a priority in all sectors, UNHCR’s specific emphasis will be on child protection, the prevention and response to sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) and the identification of and support to refugees with specific needs. UNHCR will increase its support to local authorities, including municipalities, with a view to promote social cohesion and strengthen provincial referral mechanisms. With regard to education, UNHCR will continue to focus on higher education, through the provision of scholarships, and advanced academic Turkish language classes. It will work together with livelihoods partners to establish a pathway “from learning to earning”.
UNHCR and its partners will focus on the identification of persons with specific needs and the most vulnerable. Where financial assistance is deemed to be an adequate response to protection concerns or to meet specific needs, UNHCR has revised its multi-purpose cash assistance to focus on persons with specific needs, not covered by the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN), as a means to prevent and respond to protection risks.
With self-reliance being a precursor to any durable solution, UNHCR will continue livelihoods support for people of concern to become active economic actors, and it will play a catalytic role in engaging development partners, international financial institutions, and the private sector to expand livelihoods opportunities for refugees. UNHCR will continue to advocate for resettlement and safe pathways for both Syrians and refugees of other nationalities and undertake resettlement processing. While conditions are not yet in place for voluntary repatriation in safety and with dignity to Syria, UNHCR will continue to monitor the voluntary nature of spontaneous returns, as well as population movement trends along the border.
As more than 90 percent of refugees in Turkey live among the host community, UNHCR will consolidate its community-based and outreach approaches and support communication with refugee and host communities. UNHCR will endeavor to expand partnerships and coordination will be mainstreamed in all activities to ensure the engagement of a broader range of actors. Under the One Refugee Policy, the harmonisation of assistance will continue to be a priority, in particular between Syrians and refugees and asylum-seekers of other nationalities.
Latest contributions
  • 27-JUL-2021
  • Italy
  • 24-JUL-2021
    United States of America

    private donors

  • 23-JUL-2021
  • 16-JUL-2021
  • 12-JUL-2021
  • 11-JUL-2021

    private donors

  • 09-JUL-2021

    private donors

  • 06-JUL-2021

    private donors

  • 05-JUL-2021
    Sri Lanka

    private donors

  • 04-JUL-2021

    private donors

  • 02-JUL-2021
  • Luxembourg

    private donors

  • Netherlands
  • 01-JUL-2021
    Czech Republic
  • Norway
  • Sweden

    private donors

  • 30-JUN-2021

    private donors

  • United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
  • Ireland