Refugee Aid in Turkey in the Time of Coronavirus


HasNa’s interview with immigration expert and NGO leader Metin Çorabatır highlighted the variety of ways in which the outbreak of coronavirus has impacted Turkey’s refugee communities and local humanitarian workers. Hosting over four million refugees, Turkey had already been facing difficulties in addressing the needs of the displaced people within its borders even before the emergence of the pandemic. In many ways the coronavirus has brought about a period reminiscent of the early days of Turkey’s refugee crisis, as displaced people once again struggle to secure basic necessities.

Among the key challenges faced by refugees and asylum seekers in Turkey are:

  • Loss of employment.
  • The need for cash, food, and hygiene products.
  • The absence of systems to distribute basic goods and services.
  • Small living spaces for larger family units.
  • Inadequate access to the tools necessary for distance education such as internet, computers, and TVs.
  • Scarce interpretation and translation services, especially at hospitals.
  • The lack of social security insurance for approximately 500,000 non-Syrian refugees.

The wider implications of the global health crisis can be seen in the decrease of international attention and funds directed towards the needs of Turkey’s refugee communities. While the monetary assistance and knowledge sharing of international aid programs have helped Turkey to develop its own grassroots organizations that serve refugees, external donors are now looking inward to stem the spread of coronavirus within their own countries.

Speaker Biography

Mr. Metin Çorabatır is an expert on asylum and migration issues. He is currently the President of the Research Center on Asylum and Migration (IGAM), an Ankara-based, nonprofit think-thank established in June 2013. The three ongoing projects of IGAM are: 1) the establishment of a Turkish Refugee Council to empower local NGOs in the relevant field; 2) to develop and implement a refugee integration tool in cooperation with the Belgium-based “Migration Policy Group”; 3) to host Government-NGO dialogue in the field of asylum. He worked for 18 years as the spokesperson and external relations officer of the UNHCR Office in Turkey until his retirement in June 2013.

Mr. Çorabatır has 20 years of experience in journalism and worked for print and TV media as a diplomatic correspondent, foreign and domestic contributor and editor, and TV producer. As for his most recent publications, he is the co-editor of a report by the Oxford Refugee Studies Centre that maps young Syrian refugees’ level of access to education in their host countries of Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. He is also working on research that maps data on Turkish migration to function as a template for Turkey’s Annual Migration Report for the Directorate General of Migration Management.