Syrians wait in the waiting area to be seen at the health clinic in Istanbul. The clinic, supported by IOM, has late operating hours in order to accommodate the schedule for many families who might find themselves to be busy during the day. IOM 2016 | Muse Mohammed


Marking International Migrants Day in the capital of Turkey – which hosts more migrants than any country in the world – the UN’s migrant agency said “hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants continue to face elevated levels of risk” due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ 2020 Turkey Fact Sheet, Turkey remains to hold the status of the country that hosts the largest number of refugees in the world, “with close to 4.1 million refugees, including 3.6 million Syrians and nearly 330,000 asylum-seekers and refugees of other nationalities.”

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, IOM Turkey’s Emergency Coordinator David Savard said: “The COVID-19 pandemic hit migrant and refugee communities in the larger cities such as Istanbul, Izmir and Gaziantep particularly hard.”

Noting that over 98% of the refugees in Turkey live among the host community and the remaining stay at Temporary Accommodation Centers, Savard said many migrants are having difficulty to afford food, medicine and healthcare as an impact of the pandemic.

“Given this reality, further support to ensure greater protection of migrants is urgently needed,” IOM Turkey said.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, IOM has monitored the situation of thousands of migrant families across 10 provinces of Turkey including Istanbul, Izmir, Gaziantep and Mersin.

Calling for immediate support for migrants, IOM Turkey said: “The areas of greatest need identified include cash support, psychosocial counseling, basic health and hygiene services and supplies, and education support for children.”

“IOM Turkey continues supporting the affected groups via Community Stabilization, Shelter Rehabilitation, and WASH, Enterprise Development Fund, Community Farming and Cash Based Assistance programs.

“As the face-to-face visits were restricted due to the pandemic, the teams have implemented many projects using telephone and other online platforms. As a result of the pandemic, prioritized responses included those in high-risk groups that are more vulnerable to Covid-19 by facing the risk of losing shelter or not being able to meet basic needs due to job losses,” IOM Turkey added.


As 2020 nears an end, IOM Turkey said the agency “aims to continue its work regarding meeting the needs of both migrant and host community members” in 2021.

The UN refugee agency in Turkey provides technical assistance and implements projects in several areas including migrant integration.

“To support the inclusion of migrants, having a place where migrant and host community members can come together is crucial,” told IOM Turkey.

One of these places allowing the inclusion of migrants and Turkish community members is IOM-affiliated Youth Centers in eastern Iskenderun province.

During the year, the IOM also reached out to migrants across Turkey through its “labor migration, human development and livelihoods projects.”

These projects “enable migrants to make a stable income, supporting their livelihood by reducing vulnerability to human rights abuse, labour exploitation and exposure to risks of trafficking,” according to IOM Turkey.

Other programs and projects organized by the IOM Turkey in 2020 included psychosocial mobile teams, resettlement assistance, emergency case management team, community stabilization and shelter teams as well as shelter rehabilitation project.

“On International Migrants Day 2020, IOM is committed to continue working for orderly, humane management of migration and providing humanitarian assistance to migrants in need in line with the Global Compact on Migration,” said IOM Turkey.

“IOM Turkey will be working during 2021 include but not limited to; International Border Management, Mediterranean Response, Humanitarian Assistance to Syria, Community Stabilization and Protection to implement projects and reach vulnerable communities,” the agency added.

Separately, the Turkish Ministry of Interior’s Directorate General of Migration Management will also mark International Migrants Day with an event to be held via video link.

Turkish migration authority will have a special broadcast through social media accounts to mark the day under the theme of “Turkey: Cultural Meeting Point.”

The event will begin with the opening remarks by Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu and head of Directorate General of Migration Management Savas Unlu.

Some of the activities from the event include short films, foreign national’s cuisine, video messages by migrants from 15 provinces in Turkey.

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