EU to provide 348 million euros in Turkey refugee cash card aid
BRUSSELSSep 09, 2016 - 12:00 am GMT+3
Sep 09, 2016 12:00 am
The European Union will provide cash cards to fund the basic needs of up to a million Syrian refugees living in Turkey, the bloc's executive announced Thursday, calling the 348-million-euro humanitarian aid scheme its biggest to date.
Around 3 million Syrians are living in Turkey, having fled the five-and-a-half-year conflict in their own country. The EU has pledged an overall 3 billion euros in aid for them, as part of a deal with Ankara aimed at stemming migration flows into Europe.
The bloc has come under fire from Turkey, however, for not yet meeting that full pledge. Of the 3 billion euros, 2.24 billion euros have now been committed, with almost 181 million euros disbursed.
The funding announced Thursday, aimed at providing an emergency social safety net, will be transferred monthly onto electronic cards that refugees will be able to use to acquire basic needs such as food, housing and education for their children.
The system will also boost the local economy, as the money will be spent in local markets, the European Commission said.
The scheme will make a "significant difference in the lives of men, women and children who have had to flee conflict and violence," said EU Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Christos Stylianides, adding that it will provide "dignity" for people used to relying on food handouts.
The program will be rolled out from October by the World Food Programme, in partnership with authorities in Ankara and the Turkish Red Crescent, the commission said.
On Friday, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and the bloc's neighborhood policy commissioner, Johannes Hahn, will visit Ankara.
The EU and Turkey reached an agreement in March to reduce the worst migration crisis that Europe has seen since World War II with EU countries tightening checks on the migration flow and sending refugees who arrive in Greece back to Turkey in exchange for legally processed refugees. In return, Turkey is bounded to receive benefits including visa-free travel for its citizens to the EU's Schengen zone, which in the accord is promised at the latest by June 2016, together with receiving a total of 6 billion euros up to the end of 2018 to spend on meeting Syrian refugees' needs in Turkey.
However, the deal was hampered by the EU's insistence that Turkey make narrow the definition of terrorism in its anti-terrorism laws. However, Turkish officials have said that they will make no changes as long as the country faces active threats from terrorist organizations like DAESH, the PKK and the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD).