The European Union (EU) announced yesterday that it is mobilizing over 600 million euros ($668 millon) of additional funding in humanitarian aid under the scope of a program to support refugees living in Turkey. The announcement comes after the bloc stalled its payments pledged in the 2016 deal signed between Ankara and Brussels.
In a statement released Thursday, the European Commission said they transferred an additional 600 million euros in funding for prepaid debit cards. The cards are provided within the context of the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) program co-initiated by the Turkish Red Crescent and the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) for refugees in Turkey.
Additionally, another 63 million euros were provided for various projects to offer educational and health services to meet the humanitarian needs of Syrian refugees in Turkey.
"Out of the funds of 6 billion euros, over 2.6 billion euros have already been disbursed, over 4.2 billion euros contracted and over 5.8 billion euros allocated, with 95 projects already rolled out," the statement read.
The ESSN helps refugees in Turkey to fulfill their basic needs through the allocation of TL 120 per month using the Red Crescent debit card.
Ankara and Brussels signed an agreement in March 2016 to find a solution to the influx of refugees heading to the union. According to the deal, Turkey was promised a total of 6 billion euros in financial aid, which was initially designed to be given to the country in two stages and be used by the Turkish government to finance projects for Syrian refugees. In response to this, Turkey took the responsibility of discouraging irregular migration through the Aegean Sea by taking stricter measures against human traffickers and improving the conditions of more than 3 million Syrians living in Turkey.
Although the EU had pledged 6 billion euros to improve the living conditions of Syrian refugees in Turkey, only 2.22 billion euros were disbursed as of this June, according to Turkey. Also, the EU has yet to fulfill other articles such as the visa-free deal for Turkish citizens and updating the customs union.
Turkey currently hosts some 3.6 million Syrian refugees, more than any other country in the world. Ankara has so far spent $40 billion on the refugees, according to official figures.