The European Union has fully mobilized the 6 billion-euro operational budget for refugees in Turkey, in line with its commitment to the implementation of the EU-Turkey deal signed in 2016, the European Commission announced Tuesday.
So far, out of the total facility budget of 6 billion euros agreed by the EU-Turkey deal, 4.3 billion euros have now been contracted and 2.7 billion euros disbursed. This number is expected to grow to 3 billion euros by the end of this year and up to 4 billion euros by 2020. The full amount is expected to be paid by 2025 at the latest.
Turkey is the largest host country for Syrian refugees and provides protection to more than 3.5 million people who have fled the neighboring country. The EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey supports refugees and host communities by financing projects in education and healthcare as well as projects that improve the infrastructure and develop the economy. Currently, 95 EU-funded projects in Turkey are benefiting 1.7 million refugees, including 500,000 children. An additional 25 contracts are expected to be signed in the coming months. Facility projects will continue to be rolled out with the first generation of projects finishing in 2021 and the second in 2025, at the latest.
Negotiations are still ongoing for a new financial envelop for Syrian refugees in Turkey for the period after 2025. Last week, Commissioners Margaritis Schinas, in charge of promoting the European Way of Life, and Ylva Johansson, tasked with the Home Affairs portfolio, traveled to Turkey to discuss migration issues with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Oliver Varhelyi, commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, said: "The full mobilization of the 6 billion euros for the Facility for Refugees in Turkey confirms the European Union's commitment to deliver on its promises. We will continue our support to refugees and host communities in Turkey in various areas that are of key importance to their quality of life, the future of their children and their integration at large.”
Janez Lenarcic, EU commissioner for crisis management, added: "Supporting refugees in Turkey is a priority for the EU. Thanks to the EU's support, more than 1.7 million vulnerable refugees have their basic needs covered, such as rent and medicine, and more than half a million refugee children go to school. The EU continues to deliver on its promise to refugees and Turkey.”
The announcement came following the 13th Steering Committee meeting of the EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey which took place in Brussels on Dec. 9. Chaired by the commission, the committee brought together representatives of EU member states, European Parliament and Turkey. The committee confirmed the full mobilization of the 6 billion euro operational budget and gave a timeline for the current implementation.
As stated in the website of the European Commission, the facility is a key component of the EU-Turkey deal of March 2016 and provides assistance to refugees and host communities in the areas of basic needs such as, education, health, socioeconomic support, protection and municipal infrastructure. The facility also provides a joint coordination mechanism – designed to ensure that the needs of refugees and host communities are addressed in a comprehensive and coordinated manner.
To reduce the number of illegal migrants on the dangerous Aegean Sea route and to find a solution for the influx of refugees heading to the union, Turkey and the EU signed an agreement in March 2016.
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. Visa freedom for Turkish citizens was also to be provided under the agreement. Lastly, the customs union was also to be updated in accordance with the deal.
In exchange for these promises, Turkey took the responsibility of discouraging irregular migration through the Aegean Sea by taking stricter measures against human traffickers and improving the conditions of Syrian refugees living in Turkey.
Despite significant developments in the control of migration traffic, the EU could not deliver on its commitments stated in the deal.
Although the first stage of funding was provided to Turkey, 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.
Ankara also has frequently criticized the lack of financial and humanitarian support from the international community for refugees living in the country and has warned the European countries about new possible migration waves.