The European Union plans to spend hundreds of millions of euros over the next year helping migrants living in Turkey, most of them people who fled the war in Syria.
The EU’s executive body, the European Commission, said Wednesday that it is extending two programs, one that provides cash assistance to migrants in Turkey to meet their basic needs and the other that provides funds to help educate children. The programs will be extended until early 2022 at a total cost of 485 million euros ($590 million).
The commission said they provide much-needed cash to more than 1.8 million migrants and help educate more than 700,000 children. The programs are managed by the Turkish Red Crescent in partnership with the Red Cross and UNICEF. Money does not go directly to Turkey's government.
Turkey is home to almost 4 million migrants. Around 70% are women and children, and the overwhelming majority of migrants live outside migrant camps.
In March 2016, Ankara and Brussels signed an agreement to reduce the number of migrants taking the dangerous Aegean Sea route to Europe and to find a solution for the influx of migrants heading to EU countries.
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 to be used by the Turkish government to finance projects for Syrian migrants. Visa freedom for Turkish citizens was also a perk of the agreement. In addition, the customs union between Turkey and the EU was to be updated.
In exchange for these promises, Turkey took responsibility for discouraging migration through the Aegean Sea by taking stricter measures against human traffickers and improving the conditions of Syrian migrants living in Turkey. Despite significant developments controlling migration traffic, Ankara has complained that the EU has not fully delivered on its commitments stated in the deal.
According to the European Commission, all 6 billion euros under the EU-Turkey deal has been “committed and contracted, with close to 4 billion euros disbursed.” Part of the money, 2.4 billion euros, was earmarked for humanitarian assistance and has been contracted out.
"The EU Delegation to Turkey signs the final eight contracts under the Facility for Refugees in Turkey (FRIT) this week. Under the contracts, the EU provides 780 million euros in support to refugees in terms of basic needs, health care, protection, municipal infrastructure and vocational and technical education and training, employment and support to private sector, SMEs and entrepreneurship," said the EU Delegation to Turkey in a statement last week.
Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut, head of the EU Delegation to Turkey, had said of the finalization: "I am happy to announce that we put an important milestone behind us and now focus on making sure that the refugees and host communities will benefit from our projects."
Commending Turkey for hosting over 4 million migrants – more than any other country in the world – he added, "The EU will also be prepared to continue providing financial assistance to Syrian refugees and host communities in Turkey."