Syrian Refugees in Turkey: “There is nothing difficult here, except for the language”

By Maria del Mar Marais

Refugees in Turkey face many challenges, from shelter, to food, to providing for all needs of their families. Due to the language barrier, many refugees do not know the rights they have in Turkey and what services they can access. With EU humanitarian funding, one project which addresses some these challenges is being implemented by the German NGO, Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe.

Many refugee families in Turkey struggle daily to access basic services

Eyad and his family fled their home in Aleppo countryside in February 2017, during the regime’s recapture of the city. “The bombing was unbearable. I saw death with my own eyes. I don’t want my children to witness this,” he explains. Now Eyad, his wife Mona and their seven children rent an apartment on the ground floor in Adana, southern Turkey, which is one of the six provinces where this project is implemented. It is on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey about three hours by car from the Syrian border and hosts around 200 000 Syrian refugees. Like most Syrians who have moved to Adana, Eyad came in search of work opportunities.

Eyad and the three eldest children work collecting cardboard which they sell by weight. The four members of the family earn 15 Turkish liras a day (approximately €3.8). Some months they are unable to pay the rent. Fortunately, their landlord is understanding and waits until they gather enough money to pay.

Despite the hardships he and his family face, Eyad confesses “There is nothing difficult here, except for the language.” Due to the language barrier, many refugees are often unaware of the public services such as health and education that they can access in Turkey which would help alleviate some of the challenges they face.

To help such refugee families, in November 2016, Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe together with its implementing partner Support to Life (STL) and support from EU Humanitarian Aid launched a project to further support refugees in accessing their rights and public services across the country.

STL provides two kinds of assistance: the first is a type of one shot of assistance that should be sufficient to solve the issues, such as helping with registration for temporary protection or helping access medical services. The second type of assistance is case management, which is used when the refugee's case is more complex and requires a longer follow up and possibly a multidisciplinary solution. This may be applicable in cases of domestic violence, abuse, early marriage, child labour or disability. The field workers are trained as social workers and normally take care of the more complex cases. Additionally, information and awareness raising sessions are organised for the refugees.

A few days after STL field team’s visit to their house, Ahmed, the youngest child in the family fell ill. As the one-year-old child was only preregistered but had not received his full temporary protection status, he could not receive medical assistance at the hospital. Therefore STL accompanied the family to hospital and asked the doctor to issue a report stating that the child was ill and needed medical treatment. After that, the field workers accompanied Ahmad’s family to the department of migration where they handed in the report and asked them to give priority to Ahmad’s registration.

Ahmad’s family is one of the many refugee families in Turkey who struggle daily to access basic services, their most pressing needs being translation to break the language barrier, help with registration for temporary protection and access to health services. STL teams also coordinate on a bi-weekly basis to organise the transport for patients from Hatay, another southern Turkish province, to Adana to access oncology and cardiology services, as Hatay province has none. Quoting Volkan Pirincci, the area coordinator of this project, “There are services available, the challenge is accessing them.”

On the day I visited Ahmed’s family they received the temporary protection document from the authorities. Now Ahmad and his family, fully under temporary protection, have the right to access basic services in Adana.