Refugee Response Efforts amid COVID-19: Lessons from Turkish CSOs

Event Details

When: August 20, 2020 • 10:00 am – 11:00 am EDT

Where: Online Only

The role of Turkey’s civil society organizations (CSOs) in assisting refugees has evolved over time. While their initial objective in the early years of the Syrian conflict may have been to meet the immediate humanitarian needs of the Syrians crossing Turkey’s border, over time they have come to assume greater responsibility in promoting long-term social cohesion and integration efforts through the implementation of diverse programs.

How has the coronavirus pandemic outbreak presented a rupture in this process? What are the needs and challenges faced by Turkish civil society under today’s difficult circumstances?

Following the recent release of HasNa’s report based on qualitative interviews with around 30 representatives from INGOs, grassroots CSOs, local government authorities, and academics, we are delighted to invite you to join our conversation with CSO representatives from across Turkey, while we examine the current situation on the ground in the country and the strategic direction for organizations serving refugee and host communities moving forward.


Hosting around 4 million refugees, more than any other country, Turkey occupies a unique position when it comes to shielding its vulnerable populations from the public health, economic, and social implications of the coronavirus pandemic. In this sense the Turkish civil society organizations (CSOs) devoted to serving refugee communities have also been faced with a new set of difficulties during these times. Establishing cooperation with public and private entities to identify and meet the urgent needs of these vulnerable populations, Turkish CSOs have adapted remarkably to the current circumstances. From dealing with an increase in reports of sexual and gender-based violence to suspending face-to-face contact with beneficiaries and moving operations online, Turkish CSOs have been met with a variety of challenges throughout the pandemic. While the long-term effects of COVID-19 on Turkey’s overall refugee response efforts are still unclear, the CSOs on the front-lines continue look toward a future that emphasizes social cohesion and economic empowerment programs, information campaigns, equitable gender and community participation, public-private partnerships, and much more.


Fatih Kıyman works as the Grants Manager for Support to Life (STL), an independent Turkey-based humanitarian aid organization founded with the principal aim to help disaster-affected communities meet their basic needs and rights. Established in 2005, STL works under the framework of four main programs – Combating Child Labor in Seasonal Agriculture, Refugee Support, Capacity Building, and Emergency Response. Fatih’s main duty within STL is to coordinate project design processes and to ensure that all funding partnerships are realized in a timely fashion and are well-placed to address the pressing needs in STL’s areas of work.

Omer Kaya serves as Watan’s Turkey Programs Director responsible for programs in Turkey with a special focus on integration and economic empowerment. He has taken part in multiple international trainings in the areas of social intervention, participation through preparation, lobbying and advocacy, core humanitarian standards of quality and accountability, child protection, systems and standards, creating safe learning environments, results-based management, and the European Commission DG’s ECHO training skills. At Watan, he manages program teams, ensures proper integration and achievement in line with the country office and organizational strategies, and oversees the planning and achievement of business development activities.

Şilan Kuruş works as an External Relations Officer at AAR Japan‘s Mardin Office. Since 2012, AAR Japan has been providing humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees in Turkey. Currently operating in Sanliurfa, Mardin, and Istanbul, Turkey, it delivers individualized assistance to the most vulnerable of refugees who lack access to basic services, including unaccompanied and separated children and persons with disabilities. At AAR Japan, Kuruş ensures coordination and collaboration with other relevant actors in the field, coordinating with governmental institutes and NGOs/INGOs in Mardin, referring, receiving, and following referral processes with other stakeholders, and conducting service mapping meetings with NGOs, INGOs, and governmental institutes.

Sude Karanfil is a Project Officer with the Refugees and Asylum Seekers Assistance and Solidarity Association (RASAS). She is currently heading the UNHCR and Sultanbeyli Municipality Refugees Association Career Center Project. Since 2014, RASAS aims to aid those who have left their home countries seeking international protection, regardless of their native language, religion, nationality, gender, or disability status. Cooperating with the private and public sectors, and other NGOs, RASAS carries out its activities to meet the urgent needs of its beneficiaries and support their integration into Turkish society. Karanfil holds a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering and is pursuing a Master’s in Engineering Management.