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Turkey: EU-funded programme to assist 1.7 million Syrian refugees

Geneva/Ankara, 31 October 2019 – Around 1.7 million Syrians living in Turkey will continue to receive humanitarian support through an EU-funded partnership between the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the Turkish Red Crescent Society.

Through €500 million in EU funding, IFRC will provide monthly assistance via debit cards to the most vulnerable refugees in Turkey under the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) programme. The ESSN is a multi-purpose cash transfer scheme that allows families to decide for themselves how to cover essential needs like rent, transport, bills, food, and medicine.

Elhadj As Sy, IFRC Secretary-General, said:

“Cash assistance is about dignity. Supporting people with cash gives them the freedom, dignity and independence to take control of their own lives and allows them to engage with and contribute to the communities that are hosting them.

“Many refugees have limited access to the formal labour market. Cash grants offer the power of choice and give people the independence to address their families essential needs.”

Through the ESSN programme, IFRC and the Turkish Red Crescent will provide families with approximately €18 (120TL) a month through prepaid cards. In addition, families will receive quarterly additional allowances based on family size, along with monthly payments to beneficiaries with disabilities.

An estimated 300 Turkish Red Crescent staff will be involved in the programme, ensuring close engagement with communities throughout its duration.

IFRCs As Sy said:

“This new partnership reflects the leading role that the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement plays in the delivery of humanitarian cash assistance.”

In 2018, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement was responsible for delivering about 25 per cent of all humanitarian cash assistance globally.

Christos Stylianides, the European Unions Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, said:

“The Emergency Social Safety Net programme is the EUs flagship humanitarian aid programme. It has proven itself crucial in addressing one of the most important humanitarian challenges of our times. Through this new partnership, we will continue to make a real and tangible difference for refugees in Turkey.”

The ESSN is the largest humanitarian programme in the history of the EU and will be the largest programme ever implemented by IFRC.


Eight years into the conflict in Syria, an estimated 5.6 million Syrians are registered as refugees in neighbouring countries, and more than 6.2 million are internally displaced inside Syria. In Turkey, there are an estimated 4 million refugees, of whom 3.6 million are Syrian.

For the past three years, the World Food Programme (WFP), in partnership with the Turkish Red Crescent Society, has been implementing the ESSN programme in Turkey. The funding has been provided by the European Unions Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations department under the EUs Facility for Refugees in Turkey.

IFRC will be the lead partner for the next phase of the ESSN programme. The Turkish Red Crescent will remain the operational partner of the ESSN programme; the implementation of the programme will be done in close cooperation with the Turkish Government. The first cash transfer by IFRC is scheduled for April 2020.

WFP and IFRC staff are working together to ensure a seamless transition, without any gap for those who rely on it.

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