Turkey hosted the world’s largest refugee population for the ninth consecutive year in 2022, with close to 4 million refugees and asylum seekers under international protection, local media reported on Tuesday, citing a fact sheet released by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
According to UNHCR population statistics as of mid-2022, the country was home to 3.6 million Syrians under temporary protection and 318,000 refugees and asylum-seekers under international protection.
The real number of refugees in Turkey is estimated to be much higher, Turkish media reports say.
Following Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq are the top countries of origin with 135,445 and 132,166 asylum seekers in Turkey, respectively.
UNHCR also referred to the devastating earthquakes that struck Turkey’s south on Feb. 6, saying they are supporting the local authorities in the response, including the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) and the Presidency for Migration Management (PMM).
“UNHCR is responding with tents and life-saving CRIs such as emergency shelter materials, blankets, hygiene and kitchen sets and solar lamps based on the request of the Turkish authorities,” they added.
In addition to providing core relief items, UNHCR said it is supporting the Turkish authorities with refugee counseling, referrals and protection assistance to improve the living conditions of earthquake-affected people and to assist those with specific needs in finding and accessing necessary services.
The 7.8-magnitude earthquake, which was followed by a number of aftershocks including a 7.5-magnitude temblor that jolted the region, affected 11 provinces and claimed the lives of over 45,000 people, according to the latest official figures.
The provinces hit by the Feb. 6 disaster are home to 1.74 million migrants, data from the United Nations show.
According to UNHCR, Turkey needs $498.5 million in total for its work on refugees, but only 9 percent of the amount – $46.4 million – has been met so far.
As Turkey readies for the presidential and parliamentary elections in May, the presence of refugees in the country has become a sensitive political issue, especially as it struggles with an economic and currency crisis. Opposition parties regularly call on authorities to send millions of Syrians home, while the government says it is working to create the appropriate circumstances in Syria to enable the Syrians to return voluntarily.
According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), Turkey does not meet the criteria of a safe third country under Article 38 of the Asylum Procedures Directive because Turkish authorities block access to asylum, forcibly return people claiming to be refugees and commit other abuses against migrants and people seeking international protection.