More refugees live outside of camps in Turkey: UN

More refugees live outside of camps in Turkey: UN

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
More refugees live outside of camps in Turkey: UN

Syrian refugees fill buckets with water at an improvised camp for Syrian refugees in Kfar Zabad. There are over 200,000 in 20 refugee camps in 10 provinces in Turkey, according to the UN. REUTERS photo

The largest proportion of Syrian refugees in Turkey today are those living outside of refugee camps, who now outnumber refugees sheltered in the camps, says United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Representative to Turkey Carol Batchelor, describing this as the most challenging aspect of Turkey’s hosting of Syrian refugees now.

“There are over 200,000 in 20 refugee camps in 10 provinces. But the greatest number of people are now outside of the camps. Over 200,000 are also registered outside of the camps, plus another 30,000 with appointment to be registered and then others who are in the process of making appointments,” Batchelor told the Hürriyet Daily News in a recent interview.

The larger challenge at the moment was what they called the persons in the “non-camp settings” or in “urban settings,” Batchelor said.

Sheltering in mosques

“The longer the conflict goes on; they will run out of their resources. They find temporary sheltering in mosques, in parks and other circumstances. It’s summer now, but what would happen in the winter season,” she said.

It’s not a preference for the Syrians, “there is no room in the camps,” Batchelor said, stressing that if it took 20 camps to host 200,000 people, then another 30 camps were needed for the remaining 300,000 people.

“In discussions with Turkish officials, they have mentioned that it’s very, very difficult to keep identifying more land, building more and more and more camps,” the UN official added.

The UNHCR and Turkish government is now working for a cash assistance system to registered “destitute” Syrians that live outside of camps, Batchelor noted.“For people who cannot pay for their own rent, food or medicine, we will help them with cash,” she said, adding that they preferred for people to rent their own accommodation rather than everybody trying to go into camps, since when camps were oversized they became very difficult to manage.

But the agency and Turkish government need support from donors and a very strong registration system, which identifies which people are destitute, the UNHCR official said.

‘You cannot lock people into a camp’

Turkey is in the process of registering the people, by setting up coordination center in Gaziantep for people who are not living in camps can be registered, while the UNHCR is in the process of procuring 23 mobile registration centers.

They aim to bring already established centers together into a system where the vulnerability is identified at the registration and then cash assistance can immediately be given, she said.

The UNHCR is moving away globally from camps to more urban hosting, Batchelor said.

“You cannot lock people into a camp… Camps have their own dynamics and challenges,” she noted, adding that the agency was widely using the cash assistance programs elsewhere in the world.

One million Syrian children are refugees. “In August, we are going to pass the 1 million mark for Syrian refugee children who are outside of the country,” Batchelor said, stressing that 78 percent of the Syrians who have fled their country were women and over half of the number were children.

“We will pass the 2 million mark for the total number of Syrians who have fled their country. This is a country that has a population of just over 20 million.”