A total of 882,966 foreigners residing outside the Temporary Accommodation Centers in Turkey benefitted from TL 6.5 billion ($243 million) in European Union aid last year, the T24 news website reported on Thursday, citing a minister.
Ahmet Vehbi Bakırlıoğlu, an MP from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), posed a parliamentary question regarding the social assistance provided to foreign citizens in Turkey to Family and Social Services Minister Mahinur Özdemir Göktaş.
In her answer, the minister stated that 4.4 million households, corresponding to 882,966 individuals, benefited from regular and periodic aid programs throughout Turkey last year, receiving TL 6.5 billion ($243 million) in total.
Göktaş underlined that the aid was provided within the scope of Social Cohesion Assistance, Supplementary Social Cohesion Assistance and Conditional Education Assistance for Foreigners programs financed by the EU.
The minister said the implementers of the programs are the ministry, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the Turkish Red Crescent.
According to Göktaş, an amount of TL 4.2 billion ($157 million) was paid to 325,744 beneficiaries under the Social Cohesion Assistance program, TL 1.7 billion ($63 million) to 490,490 people under the Supplementary Social Adjustment Assistance program and TL 457.8 million ($17 million) to 667,325 beneficiaries under the Conditional Education Assistance for Foreigners program in 2022.
According to a migrant deal signed in March 2016, Turkey would keep asylum seekers from reaching the EU or, if they did, the EU would be able to send them back to Turkey. In exchange, Turkey would receive 6 billion euros to improve the humanitarian situation faced by refugees in the country.
Turkey hosts nearly 3.3 million Syrian refugees who have fled civil war and were registered under temporary protection status as of August 2023, according to official figures.
Refugees in Turkey are frequently targeted by Turkish politicians, who hold them responsible for the social and economic problems in the country.
Attitudes about refugees fleeing the long conflict in Syria have gradually hardened in Turkey, where they used to be welcomed with open arms, sympathy and compassion, as the number of newcomers has swelled over the past decade.
Since the EU-Turkey migrant deal, an agreement criticized by rights groups that foresaw the payment of 6 billion euros to Turkey to keep asylum seekers from crossing into Bulgaria and Greece, the number of migrants and refugees arriving in Greece has fallen sharply. In 2015, 856,000 crossed the Aegean Sea, dropping to 173,000 the next year and to 30,000 in 2017.
In December 2020 the EU said it had allocated to Turkey the full 6 billion euros ($7.3 billion) pledged in 2016.
The EU funds were earmarked for specific social projects inside Turkey to help refugees and were not paid directly to the Turkish government.