14 March 2018 EU Commission approves €3 billion funding for Syrian refugees in Turkey

On 14 March, the EU Commission established the legal framework for the second tranche of €3 billion of the Facility for Refugees in Turkey, as foreseen in the EU-Turkey Statement, mobilising €1 billion from the EU budget. The first tranche of the Facility set up in 2016 was made up of €1 billion from the EU budget and €2 billion from Member States’ contributions, which were submitted by the end of 2017. With this announcement, the Commission proposes to complete the EU commitment, and calls on member states to honour their pledged contributions under the aforementioned agreement.

The EU-Turkey Statement aimed to address the flow of smuggled refugees and migrants traveling across the Aegean from Turkey to the Greek islands by allowing Greece to return to Turkey “all new irregular migrants” arriving after 20 March 2016. In exchange of Turkey’s containment of refugee flows and acceptance of those transferred from Greek Islands, EU Member States committed to increase resettlement of Syrian refugees residing in Turkey, accelerate visa liberalization for Turkish nationals, and boost existing financial support for Turkey’s refugee population, which amounts to 3.5 million Syrians. Turkey would receive €6 billion to assist the vast refugee community hosted in the country, half of which has already been submitted. The money goes to projects to address the needs of refugees and host communities with a focus on humanitarian assistance, education, health, municipal infrastructure and socio-economic support.

Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations on the statement released on 14 March highlighted “the positive results achieved so far and how vital and effective the Facility [for Refugees in Turkey] is, in supporting the most vulnerable refugees and their host communities in Turkey, thus reducing migratory pressures’’.

However, right groups point out at the humanitarian consequences of the EU-Turkey Statement, as the situation in Aegean Islands hotspots continues to be critical from a humanitarian point of view two years after the adoption of the deal.

The announcement on the mobilisation of the funding takes place about two weeks ahead of the upcoming EU-Turkey Summit on March 26 in the Bulgarian city of Varna.