The number of refugees in Turkey has reached over 3.4 million, making Turkey the host country with the largest refugee/migrant population in the world. Despite the efforts and generosity of Turkey, local authorities and host communities, 90% of refugees from Syria, as well as many refugees/migrants from other nationalities, live outside the camps under very difficult conditions. This unprecedented humanitarian crisis required an innovative humanitarian response. To this end, the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) funded by the EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) was launched on 26 September 2016.
The ESSN is a multi-purpose cash assistance scheme targeting the most vulnerable refugees living in Turkey. People receiving the help can decide themselves how to use the money they receive, whether it is for food, rent and utility bills. So far, more than 850.000 vulnerable refugees are being supported on a monthly basis through the ESSN debit card, known in Turkey as the “Kizilay Kart”. Each family receives one card which is uploaded every month with 120 Turkish Lira (roughly €30) per household member. This regular income has a great impact on the lives of most vulnerable refugees all over the country. More applications are being received from vulnerable families on a daily basis.
The ESSN is funded by the EU with an initial grant of €348 million and demonstrates the power of partnership in delivering humanitarian aid: It is implemented in collaboration between the World Food Programme (WFP), the Turkish Red Crescent (TRC), also known as Kizilay, and the Turkish Ministry of Family and Social Policies (MoFSP). The Disasters and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) provides overall coordination of the programme. The ESSN is not only the EU’s largest single humanitarian project ever but it is also unique as it uses the Turkish social welfare system as a basis to implement a humanitarian project. The funds supporting the ESSN are part of the “ EU Facility for Refugees of Turkey”, created as a response to the EU Member States’ call for significant additional funding to support refugees in Turkey. The Facility is designed to ensure that the needs of refugees and host communities are addressed in a comprehensive and coordinated manner. There are currently 35 humanitarian projects being funded through the Facility in Turkey.
The Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN), EU's biggest humanitarian aid project, helps vulnerable refugees living in Turkey by providing them with a family debit card on which credit is uploaded every month to meet their most pressing basic needs. The most important advantage of this way of delivering aid, in addition to the cost efficiency of the cash transfer, is providing families in need with the dignity to decide themselves how best to use the money they receive, be it to cover essential needs like food, rent or utility bills.
The ESSN was launched on 26 September 2016 and already more than 850 000 vulnerable refugees benefit from it. This regular income makes a huge difference for the most vulnerable refugees who left everything they had behind and fled their home countries to seek refuge. Aysel from Syria is one of them. She applied for assistance through the ESSN and received her card with monthly transfers of 120 Turkish Lira (roughly €30) per household member. Families also receive additional cash transfers every three months. The flexibility of this assistance is very important for her as a single mother of two children. Thanks to this regular income, she has greater peace of mind and the power to make her own choices on how best to provide for her family.