Number of Syrian children at education age reaches almost 1 million in Turkey
Neşe İdil – ISTANBULThe number of Syrian children at education age in Turkey has reached nearly one million, according to the head of Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), Mehmet Halis Bilden.
“There are nearly 960,000 Syrian children at education age in Turkey. Our Education Ministry has helped some 524,000 of those children receive education this year,” Bilden told the Hürriyet Daily News on the sidelines of the Atlantic Council Istanbul Summit on April 28.
“The promise that the European Union gave us is very significant. As our President [Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] said, they should have given us three billion plus three billion euros last year. We don’t want that money for our own needs. We want it to fulfill the needs of Syrians in education, health, sheltering and other basic needs. But because the EU has delayed giving that money, we unfortunately cannot make all of Syrian children receive education,” he added, referring to the migrant deal between Ankara and Brussels.
The EU and Turkey agreed in March last year on a plan to stop migration through illegal channels in the Aegean Sea by cracking down on human traffickers and improving the conditions of nearly 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey.
Under the agreement, Ankara agreed to take back all Syrians who crossed into the Greek islands illegally from Turkey and the EU promised to take in the same number of Syrian refugees from Turkey.
Bilden said the Education Ministry had made plans to increase the number of children receiving education.
“I believe that all of them will receive education by the end of next year,” he added.
Saying that nearly 200,000 children are receiving education under a mixed language system, Bilden noted that there are also schools in refugee camps.
“There are Arabic speaking teachers and I presume that around 200,000 children are receiving mixed language education. There are also schools aimed at Syrians and we have camps that also include schools. There are Turkish and Arabic speaking teachers there,” he added.
Previous numbers and statements put the number of Syrian children of education age at around 800,000.
When asked whether the agency has received complaints from refugee camps inside Turkey, Bilden said “we have received no complaints.”
“As of today, we have a total of 22 camps that host some 260,000 refugees. We are doing significant work there in terms of health, education and making them develop their skills,” he added.
Bilden also said three tent cities in the southern provinces of Kahramanmaraş, Adana and Osmaniye had been transformed into prefabricated cities for the refugees.
“We built 30-35 meter square houses in those places. There is a bedroom, living room, kitchen, laundry machine and a satellite dish in each house. We, as the Turkish state, have presented everything that a family may need. We have transferred some 60 percent of those in housing centers to these places. This set an example for the world,” he said.
The AFAD chair noted that refugee camps had been attacked at the heart of Europe, but refugees live “as if they are in their own home” in Turkey.
“They have burned camps in France. The camps there consist of just tents and they beat the women and children. But we find it appropriate to treat the Syrians as if they are living in their own homes here. There may be individual problems but in general there is terrific satisfaction and there are absolutely no problems. If problems are conveyed to us, we try to solve them,” he said.
When asked about the relationship between Syrians and Turks, Bilden denied any problems.
“The Turkish people have opened their homes, their kitchens and their meals to them and shared,” he said.
“There are no Syrians living in parks or under bridges. I live in Ankara. A man approached my car when I was waiting at traffic lights. I thought he was a Syrian and I stepped out of my car and asked him whether he was a Syrian. He wasn’t but someone had abused him anyway. Unfortunately, such examples exist in all societies,” he said.
“As a nation we have passed a serious test. This will be written in history,” Bilden also said.
Working under the Prime Ministry, AFAD is responsible for major relief projects inside Turkey, as well as in the surrounding region and throughout the world. With the influx of Syrian refugees into Turkey amid the civil war in the country since 2011, AFAD’s burden has been significantly increased.