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European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations
© European Union (photographer: Eren Aygün)


The country currently hosts the largest refugee population in the world, with close to 4 million people. Most refugees live outside camps.

While Türkiye provides registered refugees with access to basic rights and services, the skyrocketing cost of living and lack of access to income opportunities make it increasingly difficult for refugee families to get by.

In February 2023, 2 earthquakes caused massive destruction and suffering in southeast Türkiye, creating new needs among both Turkish people and refugees. These events added further challenges for already vulnerable refugees.

In close cooperation with Turkish authorities, the EU continues to assist the most vulnerable people in Türkiye based on their humanitarian needs. Since 2015, the EU has supported nearly 100 humanitarian projects, contracted with over 20 partner organisations.

What are the needs?

Türkiye hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees who have fled the ongoing war that has been ravaging their country for 12 years. The majority of them face challenging and often precarious circumstances.

The country is making efforts to provide registered refugees access to basic rights and services, including education and health care.

However, the depreciation of the Turkish Lira, high inflation, and the remaining socio-economic impact of COVID-19 have further worsened the already difficult living conditions of refugees. Price increases in essential areas such as food or transportation have seriously affected the refugee population and host community across the country.

© European Union, 2021 (photographer: Begüm Iman)

Some refugees feel they have no choice but to resort to negative coping mechanisms such as child labour, street begging, or child marriage. Many families reduce their food consumption or live in substandard housing.

On 6 February 2023, an earthquake of 7.8 magnitude – one of the strongest earthquakes in the region in more than 100 years – struck southeast Türkiye, close to the border with Syria.

It was followed by another powerful 7.5-magnitude earthquake on the same day. The Government of Türkiye reported over 50,000 deaths and more than 230,000 buildings damaged or destroyed

The humanitarian needs in the earthquake-affected areas remain high. Key priorities include:

  • access to social assistance and protection for vulnerable groups, namely psychosocial support
  • the rehabilitation of health and education services
  • water, sanitation and hygiene
  • shelter.
Map of Türkiye

How are we helping?


Following the devastating earthquakes in February 2023, 1,750 rescuers and 111 search dogs were immediately deployed via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.

In addition, 20 EU Member States and Montenegro offered assistance, including shelter equipment, heaters, generators, furniture, medical equipment, hygiene kits, food, and warm clothing for the population in Türkiye.

Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Albania also deployed medical teams, including 5 field hospitals, and the Netherlands deployed a medical evacuation plane via the Mechanism.

Some 2,000 tents, 8,000 beds and 500 relief-housing units equipped with 2,500 beds were mobilised via the rescEU reserves in Romania and Sweden. 

For the immediate response to the consequences of the earthquake, the EU mobilised €78.2 million of the EU’s humanitarian funding in Türkiye.

EU humanitarian work in the country

The EU continues to fund humanitarian projects in Türkiye to help vulnerable refugees and their host communities receive the support they need, in close coordination with the Turkish authorities. Since 2012, the EU has allocated €3.46 billion humanitarian funding.

The EU’s flagship humanitarian programme in Türkiye, the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN), helps the refugee population meet their daily needs through cash assistance.

Since 2016, humanitarian organisations – in collaboration with the Turkish Red Crescent and Turkish government institutions – have been helping refugee families to buy what they need most via EU-funded debit cards.

The ESSN is the single largest humanitarian programme in the history of the EU and currently assists over 1.5 million people. In addition, over 380,000 particularly vulnerable refugees receive cash assistance from the development part of the EU Facility for Refugees in Türkiye.

The EU is also committed to providing access to education for refugee children.

The Support for School Enrolment (SSE) programme aims to help over 52,000 refugee children enrol in formal and non-formal education by the end of 2023. Where necessary, children and families are also provided with transportation, translation, and further support to ensure children's enrolment in educational opportunities.

© European Union, 2021 (photographer: Yasin Akgul).

These programmes are complemented by other humanitarian aid projects addressing protection issues, including legal counselling, psychosocial support, access to civil documentation, and specialised healthcare services.

Türkiye has also been a participating state of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism since 2005. Established in 2001, the Mechanism aims to strengthen the cooperation between the EU Member States and participating states on civil protection to improve prevention, preparedness, and disaster response.

Last updated: 15/06/2023

Facts & figures

Close to 4 million refugees in Türkiye. (Republic of Türkiye, Ministry of Interior)

EU humanitarian funding in Türkiye:
€3.46 billion from 2012-2023, including €78.2 million for the earthquake response.