Only 30 pct of Turkey’s Syrian children have access to education: Disaster agency head

Only 30 pct of Turkey’s Syrian children have access to education: Disaster agency head

Only 30 pct of Turkey’s Syrian children have access to education: Disaster agency head

AP photo

Only some 30 percent of Syrian migrant children in Turkey have access to education, the head of Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) has announced, underlining the country’s aim to enroll all school-age children by 2017. 

Speaking at a March 30 conference on Syrian refugees organized by the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA) in Washington D.C., AFAD head Fuat Oktay said Turkey currently hosts some 3 million Syrians across the country, some 30 percent of which are school-age children. 

“Only 30 percent of these children have access to education,” Oktay admitted during his speech at Washington’s St. Regis Hotel, where Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is also staying during his visit to attend a Nuclear Security Summit. 

“We will provide access to education to some 450,000 children by the end of 2016 and to all 900,000 Syrian children by 2017,” Oktay told the audience, adding Turkey needs the support of international organizations in order to provide education to all refugee kids. 

“Each Syrian child who we fail to reach and enroll in a school is a risk to Turkey and to the world,” he said, adding some 330,000 Syrian children were taken off the streets to be enrolled in state schools.  

Oktay also touched upon free health services provided to all Syrians by the Turkish state, saying some 13 million Syrian patients were treated so far in the country’s health institutions. 

The other speaker at the conference, Ghassam Hitto, the former and first prime minister of the interim government formed by the Syrian opposition National Coalition, welcomed Turkish efforts in handling the refugee crisis, underlining the country has single-handedly met half the challenge. Hitto also slammed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, suggesting him as the sole person responsible for the war in Syria, while expressing disappointment with the United States’ Syrian policies. 

“The USA’s Syrian policies are in conflict with the principles the country is built upon,” Hitto claimed, adding it should support the Syrian opposition in the manner “befitting a superpower,” and stop turning a blind eye to the regime’s human rights violations. 

Turkey and the EU recently agreed on a plan to stem the flow of hundreds of thousands of Syrian and non-Syrian refugees, which stipulates that Greece send back all irregular migrants reaching its Aegean islands from Turkey. In return, Turkey will send the same number of Syrians to EU countries as it accepts from Greek islands. 

The EU also pledged another 3 billion euros in aid until the end of 2018 to help improve the living conditions of Syrian refugees in Turkey.