Turkey deserves praise for its generosity and hospitality toward migrants and refugees, Janez Lenarcic, European Union commissioner for crisis management, said Wednesday.
Lenarcic noted that the bloc is well aware of the burden that Turkey has been handling and that it is ready to provide further assistance.
“Turkey deserves praise as it is the country hosting the largest number of refugees in the world,” he said, adding that the bloc supports Ankara’s efforts through its Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) program.
The program, now run by the Turkish Red Crescent (Kızılay) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) for refugees in Turkey, was originally launched as a result of the 2016 Turkey-EU migrant deal.
The ESSN provides cash assistance to nearly 1.5 million recipients to cover their basic needs.
Last week, the bloc said it would distribute 325 million euros ($368 million) to refugees in Turkey.
The EU approved a plan in June to provide Turkey with 3 billion euros from 2021 to 2024 to help it host millions of refugees from Syria.
In March 2016, the EU and Turkey reached an agreement to stop irregular migration through the Aegean Sea and improve the conditions of more than 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey.
The deal has been successful in stemming the flow of migrants and refugees, but the EU’s reluctance to take in refugees from Turkey, and bureaucratic hurdles in transferring promised funds for refugees, have led to sharp criticism from Turkish politicians.
Ankara criticized the EU for failing to fulfill its pledge to provide funding for migrants and refugees in Turkey as part of the pact while allocating billions of euros to Greece.
Five years on, the pact is failing as Turkey struggles with increased numbers of migrants, while the EU is more divided than ever over its asylum policy.
Turkey currently hosts 6 million migrants, with nearly 4 million from Syria, its migration authority says. Some 2 million more than in 2016 and a heavy burden on a country that only had 60,000 asylum-seekers in 2011 before Syria's civil war broke out.