Turkish Civil Society’s Response to Refugees during COVID-19

The novel coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout have exerted disproportionate effects on vulnerable populations across the globe. Hosting around 4 million refugees, more than any other country, Turkey has proven to be uniquely susceptible to the difficulties posed by the pandemic. Throughout this period, local civil society organizations have shown remarkable adaptability and creativity in serving Turkey’s refugee communities under these difficult conditions.

Based on qualitative interviews with around 30 representatives from non-governmental organizations, municipalities, and academia working either directly or indirectly with Turkey’s refugee response efforts, the reports aims to explore the role of civil society organizations in meeting the needs of Syrian refugee communities before and during the coronavirus pandemic, while drawing lessons from this period to further a more holistic understanding of the implications of the outbreak for future humanitarian and integration efforts.

Underlying problems in refugees’ access to formal and regular employment, and the need for both refugee and host communities to come to terms with the potential of long-term cohabitation and to work toward durable social harmony represent a few of the most pressing challenges encountered by the country as it looks towards normalization. To succeed in effecting positive change in these areas, cooperation and coordination between local and international civil society organizations, Turkish governmental bodies, and the public at large should be promoted and strengthened.